Iraqi president opposes death penalty for Tarik Aziz
November 17, 2010
Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani has announced that he will not sign the legal papers authorizing the execution of Tarik Aziz.
Aziz, who was deputy prime minister in the government of Saddam Hussein, was the only prominent Christian in the pre-war Iraqi government. He has been sentenced to hang for his role in a brutal suppression of a Shi’ite group. The Vatican had appealed to the newly installed Iraqi government to commute the death sentene.
Talabani said that he sympathizes with Aziz “because he is an Iraqi Christian.” (As a Kurd, Talabani is also a member of a minority group.) But his refusal to sign the death warrant is not motivated only by sympathy; he opposes the death penalty in all cases.
However, the presidential veto is no guarantee that Aziz will escape execution. Iraqi officials have carried out the death penalty in other cases without presidential approval. Talabani was president when Saddam Hussein himself was hanged.