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US military hands Tareq Aziz to Iraqi authorities

US hands over 55 detained ex-regime members

Published:

The U.S. has handed over 55 former members of Saddam Hussein's inner circle, including the longtime international face of the regime, the ex-deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, Iraq's deputy justice minister said Wednesday.

Aziz's deteriorating health condition

Badie Aref, Aziz's lawyer in Amman said that his client's life is "in danger now."

"The American side handed over Aziz and other detainees to the Iraqi side on Tuesday night," Badie added.

"Aziz called me and said he was being held in the Kazemieh prison in Baghdad."

Aref urged intervention by international organisations.

"He should have been released. What the Americans did violates the Red Cross code because they handed him over to his enemies. His life is in danger now."

Aref said Aziz told him that U.S. President Barack Obama "is no different to (former U.S. president George) Bush, and that he will take part in killing us, indirectly."

Aziz, 73, who turned himself in to U.S. forces in April 2003, is one of Saddam Hussein's few surviving cohorts after the late dictator's henchman Ali Hassan al-Majid -- better known as "Chemical Ali" -- was hanged in Iraq in January for a poison gas attack against Kurds in 1988.

Appointed deputy premier in 1991 under Saddam, having previously been foreign minister, he was jailed for 15 years for murder in 2009, and was given a seven-year term in August last year for his role in expelling Kurds from Iraq's north.

The family of Aziz, who had reportedly already had two heart attacks since turning himself in to U.S. forces just days after Saddam's ouster in April 2003, has repeatedly called for his release on health grounds.

He should have been released. What the Americans did violates the Red Cross code because they handed him over to his enemies. His life is in danger now

Badie Aref, the lawyer of Tareq Aziz

US to hand Camp Cropper on July 15

The announcement comes a day before U.S. authorities are to transfer authority of Camp Cropper, the last American-run detention facility to the Iraqi government.

Iraq's deputy justice minister Busho Ibrahim said that the handover has taken place over the last three days, starting on Monday.

"As of today, we have received 55 former regime officials, the main one is Tariq Aziz, and the others are the oil and culture ministers," he said, adding that they have also received Saddam's former secretary Abed Hmoud, as well as the former education and trade ministers in Saddam's regime.

"We will receive more tomorrow but I have no information about that, and we don't have the list," the deputy justice minister said.

The U.S. military confirmed that some detainees had been handed over but did not provide identities.

Hussein Rashid Mohammed, former deputy operations director of the Iraqi military, and Sultan Hashim al-Taie, the former defense minister, were not handed over, the Iraqi official said.

As of Thursday, Iraqi security officials will control Camp Cropper, and the U.S. will hand over roughly 1,600 Iraqi prisoners currently in American custody. However, U.S. military officials have said previously that about 200 prisoners will remain in American custody at the request of Iraqi officials.

The handover is part of U.S. plans to draw down to 50,000 troops by the end of August in anticipation of all American forces leaving by the end of next year.

We will receive more tomorrow but I have no information about that, and we don't have the list

Iraq\\\\\\\'s deputy justice minister

Aziz comes from an Iraqi Christian minority

The former Iraqi official hails from a Chaldean Catholic family, and the only Christian in Saddam's mainly Sunni regime, became internationally known as the dictator's defender and a fierce American critic as foreign minister after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which led to the Gulf War, and later as a deputy prime minister who frequently traveled abroad on diplomatic missions.

His meeting with Secretary of State James A. Baker in Geneva in January 1991 failed to prevent the 1991 Gulf War.

Years later, Aziz met with the late Pope John Paul II at the Vatican just weeks before the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion in a bid to head off that conflict.