|Tariq Aziz (left) and Saddam Hussein (center)|
Baghdad, Iraq (CNN)Tariq Aziz, the imprisoned former Saddam Hussein lieutenant who served as a public face of the Iraqi dictator's government until the regime was toppled in 2003, died Friday of a heart attack at a hospital, two officials in the Mideast nation said. He was 79.
Aziz, who'd been sentenced to death four years ago in one of several post-Hussein trials against him, died at a hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya, said Hussein al-Askay, the head of a Nasiriya prison, and Saad al-Majid, the director of the province's health department.
Aziz had been taken to the hospital after his medical condition deteriorated at the prison, the officials said.
Aziz often defended the Hussein regime on the international stage, serving as deputy prime minister from 1981 to 2003 and as foreign minister for part of that time.
A fluent English speaker, he was the face of the regime to the outside world. When a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq to oust Hussein in 2003, he was the eight of spades on the deck of cards handed out to U.S. troops, representing the U.S. military's list of 55 most wanted Iraqis.
He appeared frail when he testified at Hussein's 2006 trial on war crimes charges, for which the ousted dictator was hanged later that year. At a subsequent trial in 2010, Aziz was convicted and sentenced to death for his alleged role in persecuting and murdering members of religious parties in the 1980s.
Aziz was charged in a number of other cases, including the 1992 executions of 42 merchants. In that case, the merchants, who worked in Baghdad's wholesale food market, were arrested, convicted of profiteering and executed after being accused of driving up food prices.
Aziz was among several former officials convicted in that case in 2009, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
A year later, he was convicted and sentenced to death for the Sunni-dominated regime's persecution of religious parties, including the Shiite Dawa party.
But the sentence wasn't carried out, with then-President Jalal Talabani saying he wouldn't sign the execution order.
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Source: CNN, June 5, 2015
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