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Iraqi archbishop joins Vatican appeal against execution of Saddam’s deputy

By on Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Tariq Aziz in a courtroom in Baghdad (CNS photo/Reuters TV)

Tariq Aziz in a courtroom in Baghdad (CNS photo/Reuters TV)

An archbishop in Iraq is to appeal to the government against the death sentence served on Tariq Aziz, who played a key role in Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Archbishop Georges Casmoussa of Mosul described yesterday’s decision by the Iraqi Supreme Court as “wrong”, saying he will beg the country’s president and prime minister to save the life of the 74-year-old former foreign minister and deputy prime minister.

Mr Aziz, who is said to be in extremely poor health, is convicted of persecuting religious parties and being involved in illegal executions.

Speaking from northern Iraq today, the Syrian Catholic archbishop told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need: “We have to form an international appeal to the Iraqi government to reverse their decision concerning Tariq Aziz.”

“I am ready to sign any document asking that the death sentence is not carried out.”

Archbishop Casmoussa outlined plans to call on Christians and Muslims across Mosul to sign a petition against the Supreme Court’s decision concerning Aziz, who was a Catholic of the Chaldean rite.

The archbishop’s intervention came barely 24 hours after the Vatican released a statement condemning the decision, reiterating the Church’s long-held opposition to the death penalty.

Archbishop Casmoussa went on to defend Tariq Aziz, who was convicted of persecuting religious (Shi’a) Muslim communities and being involved in the execution of merchants accused of profiteering.

The Catholic Church has long upheld its opposition to the death penalty irrespective of the outcome of criminal investigations.

The archbishop, who was speaking after returning to Iraq following the Rome Synod of Middle East bishops, said he was likely to mount a campaign similar to one organised after the death sentence was passed against former defence minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad.

Noting how Ahmad was still alive three years on, Archbishop Casmoussa said: “For defence minister Sultan, the people of Mosul – Muslims and Christians alike – signed a petition asking the Prime Minister and President of Iraq to save his life.

Tariq Aziz was instantly recognisable around the world as the public face of Saddam’s regime, serving as foreign minister during the First Gulf War (1990-1) and later as Deputy Prime Minister.

Aziz surrendered to US troops in April 2003 shortly after Baghdad was taken.

In March 2009, he was imprisoned for 15 years for the executions of 42 Iraqi merchants.

Five months later, he was sentenced to a further seven years in jail for his role in the forced displacement of Kurds.
In a statement, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi wrote: “The position of the Catholic Church on the death penalty is known.

“Therefore it is truly to be hoped that the sentence against Tariq Aziz will not be carried out precisely in order to favour reconciliation and the reconstruction of peace and justice in Iraq after the great suffering it has undergone.”

  • Saunders9

    Yes my heart bleeds for him. What is for dinner? I'm not sure why the Church is involved in this? I wish it would pay as much effort in protecting vulnerable children from pedophile priests. The former carried out evil actions the latter are innocent. Actually this story makes my blood boil. I'm all for forgiveness, but what about justice? The Church has never put the death penalty on the same grounds as abortion as any person would know when reading the Catechism. I favour the death penalty in very limited occurrences, and this Iraqi leader must be executed.

  • Saunders9

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, talking about punishment by states, “not excluding in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty” (page 488). And Genesis 9:6 also supports the death penalty. So I'm wondering where,”The Catholic Church has long upheld its opposition to the death penalty irrespective of the outcome of criminal investigations” comes from? Or do they mean by 'long' since the Catechism was published?

  • Camilo88

    Sorry Mr Saunders, christians shall follow christ if they are enough strong for that. So, tell me where christ allows death penalty? Never. We, human people, are not christ and in extremis we are like that, we are “una tabula capax”. This means if in one ship see accident will remain only one small stick for everypassengers save. The stick has capacity to save only one passenger. The accident gravity is clearly in the “extremis”, no one can be saved if everybody will try survive in the stick. If all of us jump over the stick, we are kiling everybody. But if you kick out everybody, unless one, you are saving the “extremis” possible, one. Dont compare that with what is going on under this Iraq regimen. From courts and aucthorities until the most anonimous killer, everybody is killing everybody.Each one of them feels the rigt to kill. Pure barbarism, genocide. More than half of christians, disapeared already.Since many years ago, one barbaric regimen is replaced by another barbaric regimen, allways worsening, year by year, day by day. Imperiously, we must urge them to stop imediatly, and the authorities are the first ones must give the peacefull example and not the death example. By another side, eveybody knows USA and Iraqi allies wants kill Tarek Aziz for fire more the relations between christians and muslims expecting everybody will wish be under his protection.But mistake. It will be exactly the opposit. USA and all of us western people will be saw like hated monsters. Because USA administration and her iraqi allies dont care with their citizens and nations.

  • Camilo88

    I am not priest. I am a lawyer with 40 years crimes experience. The 40 years experience can give me one idea why you need cure your frustrations killing any body. And why, for u, the pedophilic guys are the priests. Normaly, that comes from people with trauma associated with. Victim, repressed pedophilic wishes and repressed violence feelings transfer.Only in that way I, as lawyer, can understand and defend some attenuating circunstances (not the inocence) about one killer defending the assassination of inocent people like Tarek Aziz and those iraq people. And blaming people because dont agree with those crimes. Politicaly and religiously, Aziz can be guilty, depends of political side or religious side of each one of us. But in the law, is not. He is inocent. I comented already why. It is a political punishment not a legal punishment. But i can add too many more reasons. Since when is legal and civilized to make today one law telling the mustache you had legaly yesterday is punished today as mask crime? I answer: -since Roosevelt and his sucessor Truman, Churchil and Stalin decided that at II Great war germanian and japanese crimes. But you can see how fanny and barbaric they did. Only the crimes commited by germanian and japanese armies were crimes. The crimes commited by comunist army and allied armies (principle the horrible crimes against Nagazaki and Hiroshima children and woman. All the men are out, are fightinh in the battle fronts) were not crimes.It has been political “justice” not legal justice. May be more fair the II war victors political justice, Sadam's political justice or this USA/iraq political justice. But for me, I respect only legal justice, not political justice, equal for victors and loosers, equal for the president and for you, equal for everybody. Not diferent according you looser color, victor color, black color, white color, etc, etc.That was the barbarism of Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin, USA, II Great war, etc.