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Iraq War 10 Years Later: Where Are They Now? Tariq Aziz

Jessica Lynch. Tommy Franks.  'Chemical Ali.' Tony Blair. Hans Blix. Ten years ago, as the war in Iraq began, these were names on front pages everywhere. Find out what has happened to them – and 10 other headliners associated with the conflict – since.

Reuters file

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz speaks to an Egyptian delegation in Baghdad on Feb.25, 2003.

Tariq Aziz

With his fluent English, thick glasses and bushy mustache — and the trivia-friendly status as being the lone Christian in Saddam Hussein’s regime — Tariq Aziz was a familiar face to those watching coverage of Iraq, both during the 1991 war and the lead-up to the 2003 invasion.

A close associate of Hussein since their days as Ba’ath party activists in the 1950s, Aziz was Iraq’s foreign minister from 1983 to 1991 and deputy prime minister from 1979 until the overthrow of the Saddam regime. Born Mikhael Yuhanna in northern Iraq, he changed his name (it means “glorious past”) after studying English and setting out to be a journalist.

Because of security concerns, Saddam rarely left Iraq, and Aziz would often represent Iraq abroad. In December 2002, Aziz called the United Nations arms inspection a “hoax” and war “inevitable”. What the U.S. wanted, he said, was not “regime change” in Iraq but rather “region change.”

When war began, Aziz was in Iraq, and even before it had got into full swing, on March 19, 2003, reports surfaced that he had been shot dead while trying to enter the Kurdish part of the country. However, Aziz quickly held a press conference to tell the world he was still alive and well.

After the fall of Baghdad and the rest of the country, Aziz surrendered to United States forces on April 24, 2003. He was the 43rd of 55 most-wanted Iraqi leadership members on the U.S. Department of Defense’s famous deck of cards. 

Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP – Getty Images file

Iraqi journalists watch a live broadcast on state television showing Iraq's former deputy premier Tariq Aziz sitting in the dock as the supreme criminal court passes a verdict of "deliberate murder and crimes against humanity,

According to a December 2004 report by NBC’s Lisa Myers, Aziz was at first more cooperative than most of Hussein’s henchmen, ready to talk most particularly about corruption in the United Nations’ oil-for-food program. According to Myers,  U.S. officials say Aziz implicated France and others, claiming payoffs were made with the understanding that recipients would support Iraq on key matters before the U.N.

Such cooperation, however, did not save him, along with other captured members of the Saddam regime, from being scheduled for trial for alleged crimes against humanity.

It was to be a long wait, punctuated with many complaints about his health and treatment.

Eventually, in April 2008, Aziz went on trial, accused in the deaths of 42 merchants executed for sanctions-profiteering in 1992. He also faced charges in the 1999 death of Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq Sadr, a leading voice of opposition to President Saddam Hussein (and the father of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr).

At first things looked good for Aziz, when he was acquitted on March 1, 2009, of the charges related to Ayatollah al-Sadr’s death. However, on March 11 he was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison his role in the deaths of the merchants.

 On October 2010, Aziz was sentenced to death by an Iraqi panel for crimes against humanity. However, Iraq’s president Jalal Talabini has refused to sign the execution order, according to a 2010 article in London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.  "I sympathise with Tariq Aziz because he is an Iraqi Christian. Moreover he is an old man who is over 70," Talabini said.

According to a January 2013 Agence France-Presse article, Aziz is suffering from depression in addition to diabetes, heart disease,and ulcers.

His lawyer, Badie Aref, quoted Aziz as saying, "I would prefer to be executed rather than stay in this condition."