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Aziz takes stand for Hussein
Tarik Aziz testifies on behalf of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone Wednesday.


Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Tariq Aziz, once the public face of the former Saddam Hussein regime, took the stand Wednesday as a defense witness in the trial of Hussein and seven co-defendants, saying the government acted properly in responding to an assassination attempt against Hussein.

Aziz, frail-looking and said to be in failing health, testified that the government reacted lawfully during what he described as a period of attacks against the state and government, including the 1982 assassination attempt against Hussein.

Hussein and his co-defendants are charged in connection with the detention, torture and killing of dozens of Shiites in Dujail. Nearly 150 Shiites, some of them teenagers, were executed and hundreds more were jailed in the crackdown.

Aziz maintained that other defendants never mentioned to him the crackdown against Shiites in the town of Dujail following the assassination attempt. He added that "no one is guilty of anything" and said the enforcing of law by the government is not a crime. (Watch Aziz testify that no crimes were committed -- 13:22)

The former foreign minister described himself as a close friend of Barzan Hassan, the head of the secret police during the Dujail executions. Aziz said that Hassan would have informed him if Hassan or the intelligence agency had been torturing people. Aziz also testified that former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan had nothing to do with the crackdown.

Aziz also talked about an attempt on his own life around that period at Mustansariye University in Baghdad. He accused the Dawa Party of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of trying to kill him and Hussein during that period and said that dozens of students were killed then, Reuters reports.

"I'm a victim of criminal acts committed by a party presently in power now. Try them," Reuters quoted Aziz as saying.

He compared the conflict in the 1980s to the instability in Iraq today, saying that if people in Dujail should be compensated for the destruction of their orchards during the crackdown, people in places like Falluja today where fighting has destroyed property should also be compensated.

Once perhaps the Iraqi official most recognized by Westerners, with his white hair, glasses and articulate statements in fluent English, Aziz is now in custody.

He was No. 25 on the U.S. list of most-wanted Iraqis when the war began.

During Hussein's testimony Wednesday, the former Iraqi leader said he didn't refer the Dujail case to the intelligence agency or assign Hassan or Ramadan to handle it. Rather, he allowed the situation to develop normally under the department of general security, Hussein said.

He added that the priority was not to take extreme measures or harm people because such acts could have inflamed tensions.

Also testifying was Abd Hamid Mahmoud Al-Tikriti, who served as Hussein's personal secretary at that time and was a part of his security detail. An eyewitness to the Dujail incident, Al-Tikriti testified that he never heard or saw Hussein give orders to Hassan or Ramadan.

One defense witness, Saif al Din Mash-hadani -- a low-ranking Baath party official -- was removed from court after shouting "Damn America, damn the occupation."

The trial resumes Monday.

CNN's Arwa Damon contributed to this report

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