Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Wednesday he will not sign an execution order for Tareq Aziz, the former deputy of dictator Saddam Hussein sentenced to death last month for crimes against humanity.
“No, I will not sign the execution order for Tareq Aziz, because I am a socialist,” Talabani told French television France 24 in an interview. “I sympathize with Tareq Aziz because he is an Iraqi Christian. Moreover he is an old man who is over 70.” (Photo: A video grab of former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz listening to the court verdict in Baghdad March 11, 2009/Iraqiya TV via Reuters TV)
Iraq’s high tribunal passed a death sentence on Aziz, once the international face of Saddam’s government, in October over the persecution of Islamic parties in Iraq during Saddam’s rule. The Vatican and Russia both called on Iraq not to carry out the death sentence on humanitarian grounds, noting his age and health problems. The Vatican said mercy would help the war-torn country make progress toward reconciliation, peace and justice.
It was not clear whether Talabani’s opposition to signing the death sentence would prevent it from being carried out.
Aziz, a Christian, was well known in foreign capitals and at the United Nations before Saddam’s downfall. The U.S. government did not join the appeals to spare Aziz’s life. Analysts said that was partly because the United States itself carries out the death penalty and also possibly because it did not consider his hands to be entirely clean.