The most well-known member of Saddam Hussein's government in the run-up to the war on Iraq, his Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, was sentenced to death by hanging on Tuesday, for persecuting Shiites. The sentence comes just three months after the Americans transferred him to Iraqi government custody. A Chaldean Christian, Aziz is 74 years old. He has suffered a number of strokes since he was imprisoned eight years ago.
Critics say the sentence is a political move in order to distract from the recent revelations of torture committed by the American and Iraqi forces.
Holy See Press Office Director Fr Federico Lombardi SJ released the following declaration yesterday afternoon:
"The Catholic Church's position on the death penalty is well known. It is hoped, therefore, that the sentence against Tariq Aziz will not be implemented, precisely in order to favour reconciliation and the reconstruction of peace and justice in Iraq after the great sufferings the country has experienced. As concerns the possibility of a humanitarian intervention, the Holy See is not accustomed to operate publicly but through the diplomatic channels at its disposal".