November 8, 2010

The Vatican hopes the death penalty will not be carried out against former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, 74, said the Vatican spokesman.

"The position of the Catholic Church on the death penalty is known," the spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said Oct. 26, the day the Iraqi high court sentenced Aziz to death by hanging.

"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."

The court sentenced Aziz, a Catholic who also served as foreign minister for then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, for persecution of Shiite religious parties.

Aziz is currently in prison and in poor health.

He has been convicted for his role in the 1992 execution of more than three dozen merchants found guilty of profiteering and for his role in the forced displacement of Kurds in northern Iraq.