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Iraq court sentences top Saddam officials to 15 years for merchant killings

[JURIST] The Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal [governing statute, PDF] sentenced Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] Wednesday to 15 years in prison, respectively, for their parts in the 1992 murders of 42 merchants accused of price-gouging during a period of UN-imposed sanctions. Aziz and al-Majid, the cousin of Saddam Hussein better known as "Chemical Ali," were among eight defendants on trial for the murders, which were committed after a summary trial of the 42 merchants, who were not given a chance to appeal or defend themselves [Washington Post report] against the charges. Two other cousins of Hussein were sentenced to death in the case, three defendants were sentenced to prison terms, and one man was acquitted of all charges.

The sentences handed down against Aziz and al-Majid come nearly one week after Aziz was acquitted [JURIST report] of charges and al-Majid received a third death sentence in connection with the killing of protesters who rioted [HRW backgrounder] in Baghdad and Amarah following the alleged assassination of Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr - father of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr [CFR profile] - by Hussein agents. The trial against the eight defendants accused in the merchant killings began [JURIST report] last April. The trial was adjourned shortly after it opened and was resumed [JURIST report] nearly one month later in the absence of some defense lawyers and one of the defendants, al-Majid, who missed the resumption of the trial due to health concerns.

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