Lawyer: Aziz will not testify against Saddam

Saddam Hussein’s deputy Tariq Aziz has refused to testify against the former Iraqi leader at his trial, Aziz’s lawyer said, adding he expected Aziz to be released soon.

Saddam Hussein’s deputy Tariq Aziz has refused to testify against the former Iraqi leader at his trial, Aziz’s lawyer said, adding he expected Aziz to be released soon.

Badee Izzat Aref yesterday said he expected the former deputy prime minister to be released because “the charges against him will not stand”.

Aref said Aziz, the only Christian in Iraq’s former Baath Party leadership, was asked to appear in court as a witness for the prosecution rather than a defendant, but refused.

Aziz “has had many tempting offers to switch from being an accused to being a witness,” Aref said.

“He refused. He said: “Judge me as an accused person, what crimes did I commit?””

Aziz was allegedly involved in several party purges in the 1970s and 80s during which an unspecified number of people died. Along with 10 other senior aides, Aziz and Saddam remain in US custody and are expected to be brought to trial soon.

Aref said US monitors of the trial process will be making changes “because the Iraqi courts were inconsistent and violating law”.

Aziz, who had a personal audience with the late Pope John Paul II on the eve of the Iraq conflict, has asked for the names of the court’s officials to find out their background, Aref said.

“Those accused have the right to know who the court members are. He might have a personal or political enmity with a court member,” Aref said.

No specific charges have been laid against Aziz to date.

So far, Saddam has been charged for his alleged role in the 1982 killings of about 150 Shiite Muslims in the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, allegedly in retaliation for a botched assassination attempt against him.

Iraqi officials say Saddam will be put to death if convicted of the crimes.

The trial is expected to begin within two months, according to a source close the Iraqi Special Tribunal, specifically set up to try the ousted Iraqi leader and his chief lieutenants.

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