President Talabani says he will not sign Aziz execution order
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In an interview with FRANCE 24 Wednesday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said he will not sign off on the execution of former foreign minister Tariq Aziz, who was condemned to death on October 26th.
In an apparent nod at international calls for clemency, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told FRANCE 24 Wednesday that he would not sign the execution order for former Iraqi foreign minister and deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz.
Aziz, the bespectacled Iraqi diplomat who was the international face of Saddam Hussein’s regime for several decades, was sentenced to death by an Iraqi court on October 26.
Aziz was sentenced to death for the persecution of Shiite religious parties in the 1980s, and is also on trial for a crackdown on Iraqi Kurds.
Speaking to FRANCE 24 in Paris, where he was attending a Socialist International (SI) meeting, Talabani said he would not sign the controversial order.
“I will not sign Tariq Aziz’s death sentence," said Talabani in an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24. "I will sign no death sentence at all because as a social democrat, I’m against the death penalty.”
Aziz, an Iraqi Christian who majored in English literature and was a journalist before entering politics, was a familiar face on the international scene during the 1980s and ‘90s – meeting world leaders and defending Saddam Hussein’s foreign policy exploits – notably the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
The recently re-elected Talabani told FRANCE 24 that he “sympathised” with Aziz “because he is an Iraqi Christian. Moreover,” Talabani added, “he is an old man who is over 70.”
The Vatican and Russia have both urged Iraq to halt the execution on humanitarian grounds noting Aziz’ age (74) and health problems.
Family, lawyer say verdict is politically motivated
In an interview with FRANCE 24 shortly after the Iraqi High Tribunal sentenced the former Iraqi foreign minister to death last month, his daughter, Zaineb Tariq Aziz maintained that her father was innocent of all charges. “He had nothing to do with the internal affairs (of Iraq under Saddam’s reign). As you know, he was the foreign minister for a long time. His work was in foreign affairs and he had nothing to do with the internal affairs,” she said.
Aziz’s family and lawyer have long maintained that the verdict is politically motivated and that the current Shiite politicians in power in Iraq have a visceral hatred toward Aziz.
In the long-running case for which he was sentenced to death, Aziz was accused of persecuting members of Shiite religious parties under Hussein’s regime, including the Shiite Dawa Party, of which current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a member.
Born in 1936 near Mosul into an Iraqi Assyrian Christian family, Aziz was the most politically prominent Christian member of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
In 2003, shortly after the US invasion of Iraq, he surrendered to US forces. At that time he was ranked 43 on the list of the 55 most wanted Iraqi senior officials.