If found guilty Aziz could also face the death penalty.
 
'Security reasons'
 
The trial began in Baghdad last month but the first hearing was adjourned after Aziz said he wanted new lawyers because Badie Izzat Aref, his Iraqi counsel, was unable to attend for "security reasons".
 
The team of foreign lawyers who agreed to defend Aziz is comprised of French lawyer Jacques Verges, four Italian lawyers and a Lebanese-French attorney.
 
Aziz's lawyers had wanted the trial to be moved to Iraqi Kurdistan in the relatively stable north of the country or to be transferred abroad to ensure it is not influenced by the Baghdad government.
 
Aziz surrendered to US forces in April 2003 shortly after the invasion and stands accused, with seven others, of executing businessmen for hiking food prices at a time when Iraq was under tight UN economic sanctions.
 
Prosecutors have said that the victims were arrested in Baghdad's wholesale markets and executed after a speedy trial in 1992.
 
They also charge that Saddam's regime then seized their money and property.
 
Aziz, Ali Hassan al-Majid, who is also known as "Chemical Ali", and Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan, Saddam's half-brother, are the most high profile of the eight defendants in the trial.