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Trial of Saddam's deputy PM resumes in Baghdad

An Iraqi court on Tuesday resumed hearing the case against Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein's regime, on charges in the 1992 execution of dozens of merchants.

An Iraqi court on Tuesday resumed hearing the case against Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein's regime, on charges in the 1992 execution of dozens of merchants.

Former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz stands in an Iraqi court on April 29. ((Associated Press))

Aziz, 72, is among eight defendants facing trial at the Iraqi High Tribunal located in Baghdad's Green Zone that was set up to try members of the former regime.

The trial opened three weeks ago but was adjourned when Aziz requested a change in lawyers. His new legal team includes French and Italian lawyers, but none of them have been granted Iraqi visas, according to media reports. It's unclear who will be representing Aziz.

Aziz, who is fluent in English, was the public face of Saddam's totalitarian regime and the only Christian among his mostly Sunni Muslim circle.

He surrendered to U.S. forces in April 2003 shortly after the invasion and has been in custody since.

Aziz and the seven other defendants face charges stemming from the 1992 executions of 42 merchants accused by the government of profiteering while the country was under strict UN sanctions. If convicted, the eight men face the death penalty.

One defendant, Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, has already been sentenced to death in another case. 

Known as Chemical Ali, he was sentenced to hang for a 1988 mustard gas attack on Kurds in the northern village of Halabja that killed more than 5,000 people. The attack is considered the worst use of chemical weapons since the First World War.

The judge presiding over the trial is the same one who sentenced Saddam to death for the killing of 148 Shias. He was executed on New Year's Eve 2006. 

With files from the Associated Press