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Former Iraqi Official Tariq Aziz Sentenced In Kurdish Case

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz in court in 2008
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Tariq Aziz, Iraq's former deputy prime minister, was sentenced to seven years in jail for his role in the forced displacement of Kurds from oil-prosperous northeastern Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule.

In March, Aziz was given a 15-year sentence for his role in the killing of dozens of traders for breaking state price controls in 1992. Two lawyers said the sentences would be added together so 73-year-old Aziz would serve 22 years in jail.

The March ruling was the first time Aziz, who also served as foreign minister and was the international face of the Saddam regime, was convicted of a crime since giving himself up to U.S. troops in April 2003, two weeks after the former Iraqi leader's rule ended.

"Because you committed, in partnership [with others], the crime of forced displacement against the Kurdish people, the court has decided to condemn seven years in prison," Judge Mahmoud Salih said, giving the jury's verdict on August 2.

Aziz's sentence in March came less than two weeks after the same Iraqi High Tribunal cleared him of any role in killing and displacing Shi'ite Muslims in 1999. That trial saw Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majeed, receive a third death sentence.

Majeed, nicknamed "Chemical Ali" for his use of poison gas to kill Kurds in the 1980s, was also sentenced to 15 years in the trader case. Political disputes have delayed his execution.

Some within Iraq have seen the trials of Saddam's allies as revenge against those who flourished under his Sunni-led regime.

Aziz rose to prominence around the time of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 Gulf War, when he was foreign minister, exhibiting excellent English and robust negotiating skills. He was the only Christian in Saddam's government.

He also featured prominently in Iraq's conflict with Iran from 1980-1988, helping win U.S. support for Saddam's invasion.

The Iraqi High Tribunal was set up after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to try Saddam and former members of his government.

Saddam was executed in December 2006 after being convicted of crimes against humanity for the killing of 148 Shi'ite men and boys after a 1982 assassination attempt against him.