Baghdad, April 29 (Reuters): Former Iraqi deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz, the public face of Saddam Husseins regime, went on trial today over the execution of dozens of merchants accused of breaking state price controls in 1992.
A Reuters reporter saw Aziz, looking frail and weak in a brown suit and using a walking stick, enter the courtroom with six other defendants when Judge Raouf Abdul Rahman opened the tribunal. He is reported to have been in poor health.
It was the first time the 72-year-old Aziz, who also served as foreign minister under Saddam, has answered any charges since he gave himself up to US troops in April 2003, just two weeks after the former Iraqi leader's rule ended.
The merchants were accused of increasing prices of vital goods in breach of state price controls when Iraq was under UN sanctions imposed for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Azizs lawyer, Badie Arif, called the charges against his client a farce.
Keeping him in the prison for 5 years has embarrassed the government. There is international pressure ... and so they had to present him as a defendant, said Arif. Legally, theres no case.