11/18/2010, 00.00
IRAQ
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Archbishop Sako: the death penalty for Aziz and others is only an act of revenge

After Talabani refused to sign the death sentence for Tareq Aziz, the archbishop of Kirkuk invites him to pardon similar sentences: Saddam's former officers now in prison are no longer a danger to the country.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Cancel the death penalty in the new Iraq to allow the country's true development. In the aftermath of the Iraqi president’s order to halt the death sentence of Tareq Aziz, the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, Msgr. Louis Sako, reiterates the need to stop these "acts of revenge that do not serve peace."

"The death sentence is an offense to the human person. Who has the right to take a person’s life?" the archbishop said to AsiaNews. "I do not say this because the former Iraqi vice president Tareq Aziz is a Catholic, but because the death sentence is an absurdity in itself. The international community has a duty to ask all the governments for its suppression".

Yesterday a window of hope was opened for the 74 year-old Tareq Aziz, the last surviving high ranking representative of the deposed Iraqi regime, condemned to death by the High Court three weeks ago in Baghdad. President Jalal Talabani, who has always opposed the death penalty, insisted he will not sign the execution order. Just as he had assured in the case of the former Rais Saddam Hussein, who was later hanged in December 2006.

Archbishop Sako said that "everyone in Iraq knows that Aziz and other officials of the government could not object to the opinion of former President Saddam Hussein. Those who dared to give an opinion other than their own were killed. Being a member of an authoritarian government is a trap".

The archbishop then confirmed the importance of a genuine democratic progress in Iraq: "We have made progress, albeit slowly, towards democracy. Elections, freedom of expression, media, travel abroad, now we must remove the death penalty. This will help the progress towards democracy and reconciliation, especially since Aziz and others do not represent a danger to national security. They can simply remain in jail". "The death sentences - concluded Msgr. Sako - are acts of revenge, a sign of weakness of a state, an initiative not worthy of the new Iraq. I pray and hope that these sentences will not be executed". (LYR)

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