BAGHDAD – The fourth trial of top figures from Saddam Hussein's regime will begin next week when former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz and six others face charges in the execution of dozens of merchants in 1992, an Iraqi judicial official said Wednesday.
Aziz, the only Christian among Saddam's inner circle, was for years among the most visible leaders of the ousted regime. Among his co-defendants are Saddam's half brother Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan and former Central Bank chief Issam Mula Hawish.
Court spokesman Munir Hadad said the trial is scheduled to start Tuesday and deals with the execution of 42 merchants accused by Saddam's government of being behind a sharp increase in food prices when the country was under strict U.N. sanctions.
The merchants were rounded up from Baghdad's wholesale markets and charged with manipulating food supplies to drive up prices at a time when many Iraqis were suffering economically. All 42 were executed hours later after a quick trial.
Presiding over the trial will be judge Raouf Abdul-Rahman, who sentenced Saddam to death in May 2006 for his role in the killing of Shiite Muslims in the town of Dujail after an assassination attempt in 1982. Saddam was hanged the following December.
Saddam was executed while on trial in a second case, stemming from the brutal crackdown on ethnic Kurds in the late 1980s.
A third trial is under way for officials accused of crushing a Shiite uprising that followed the 1991 Gulf War.