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Family 'shocked' by Tariq Aziz verdict

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Reaction to Aziz death sentence
  • He did nothing wrong and the trial was unfair, his daughter tells CNN
  • Aziz was Iraq's deputy prime minister from 1981 to 2003
  • The Vatican released statement on Tuesday

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- The daughter of former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz says an appeal will probably do nothing to stop her father's death sentence.

"I don't think he has any hope of coming out" of prison, said Zainab Aziz.

Tariq Aziz, one of the best-known faces of the Iraqi government for more than two decades, was sentenced to death Tuesday by the Iraqi High Tribunal for his role in eliminating religious parties during Saddam Hussein's regime.

His family was shocked by the verdict, the daughter told CNN.

The family had no idea he was going to be sentenced Tuesday, Zainab Aziz said from Amman, Jordan.

"Until last week, they were hearing new witnesses in this case," she said, criticizing both the verdict itself and its timing.

"My father served his country for more than 22 years. He delivered himself to the U.S. Army [after the fall of Hussein] because he wasn't afraid. He didn't do anything wrong. He served his country," she said.

He delivered himself to the U.S. Army [after the fall of Hussein] because he wasn't afraid. He didn't do anything wrong. He served his country.
--Zainab Aziz
  • Iraq
  • Tariq Aziz

"He has been wronged," Zainab Aziz said.

Badi Arif, an attorney who used to represent Aziz, said there is a political motive behind the death sentence.

"Mr. Aziz used to always tell me, 'They'll find a way to kill me, and there is no way for me to escape this,'" Arif told CNN. "But from a legal perspective, this sentence is wrong; this is illegal and this is unexpected."

In March 2009, Aziz was sentenced to 15 years in prison in connection with the 1992 executions of 42 merchants.

Aziz was deputy prime minister from 1981 to 2003, also holding the post of foreign minister for part of that time.

Amnesty International urged Iraq not to carry out the sentences on Tuesday, even as it acknowledged the brutality of Hussein's regime.

The Vatican also released a statement on Tuesday.

"The position of the Catholic Church on the death penalty is known. It is truly hoped therefore that the sentencing against Tariq Aziz not be carried out, precisely to favor the reconciliation and reconstruction of the peace and justice in Iraq after the great suffering it has gone through," spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

CNN's Hada Messia contributed to this report.