Tariq Aziz: A profile

Tariq Aziz: A profile
Saddam Hussein's right hand man has died in prison in southern Iraq, convicted of crimes against humanity.
3 min read
05 June, 2015
He was 43rd out of 55 of the US defence department's most-wanted Iraqi leaders [Getty]

Tariq Aziz, a leading figure in Saddam Hussein's regime, has died of a suspected heart attack aged 79.

The former Iraqi diplomat died while being held in solitary confinement prison in Nasriyah prison in southern Iraqi. He was being held on charges of murder, corruption and human rights abuses.

The Iraqi government had rejected pleas from international and local organisations and members of the deceased family to release him on grounds of his health.

Nasiriyah prison said the former deputy prime minister died after his health condition deteriorated.

"Aziz passed away this afternoon in Al-Hussein Hospital after his health deteriorated," Hussein Khaled, the prison warden, told reporters.

Khaled said Aziz suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure.

After the fall of Baghdad he was arrested by US forces. At the time of his detention he was 43 out of 55 of the most-wanted Iraqi leaders on the US defence department's famous deck of cards.

Later the Americans handed Aziz over to then Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki's government. During that time, Aziz complained about being exposed to torture inside prison, as stated by several members of his family who live in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Aziz was sentenced to death along with a number of Saddam Hussein's aides and ministers. He remained in prison awaiting execution until his death.

Aziz was one of the closest people to Saddam Hussein and together they led the 17 July 1968 revolution carried out by the Baath Party against the regime of Abdul Karim Qasim, the former Iraqi communist leader.

Tariq Aziz was born in 1936 in northern Mosul to a Chaldean Catholic family. He studied English and worked as a journalist for Iraqi and Arab organisations before joining the Baath Party in 1954. His real name is Mikhail Yuhanna Aziz.

Appeals by the Vatican and various international organisations to release him because he was a diplomat and not a military person in the former regime went unheard.

Aziz is said to have known many Iraqi state secrets. The Iraqi Supreme Court forbid the media from covering Aziz's interrogation sessions and considered them closed. The sessions dealt with international issues concerning Iraq and its connection with countries like Russia, US and Iran, among other countries.

Aziz played a major role in determining Iraq's foreign policy from the beginning of the eighties until the fall of Baghdad in March 2003.

His public trial was an embarrassment for the court because of his defense of Saddam Hussein and the discussion concerning the legality of the court under US occupation.

Aziz may not be buried according to his wishes in his hometown of Mosul in Mar Mattai monastery as the city has been controlled by the Islamic State group since last year. He is expected to be buried either in Baghdad or in the Amman where his family has lived for 12 years.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.