Iraqi Bishop Appeals for Tariq Aziz's Life

Calls for Christians and Muslims to Unite for Cause

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MOSUL, Iraq, OCT. 29, 2010 ( Syrian Catholic Archbishop Georges Casmoussa of Mosul is appealing for the life of Tariq Aziz, a key operative in Saddam Hussein’s regime who was sentenced to death on Tuesday.

That same day, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, issued a Vatican statement asking Iraq not to execute the deputy prime minister of former President Hussein’s regime.

The Iraqi supreme court convicted the 74-year-old former foreign minister for persecuting religious parties and being involved in illegal executions.

On Wednesday, Archbishop Casmoussa told Aid to the Church in Need that he plans to appeal to the authorities to save the life of the convicted man.

“We have to form an international appeal to the Iraqi government to reverse their decision concerning Tariq Aziz,” the prelate said. “I am ready to sign any document asking that the death sentence is not carried out.”

Mikhail Yuhanna, known as Tarek Aziz, was baptized as a Chaldean Catholic. He served as deputy prime minister to Saddam Hussein from 1979-2003.

Archbishop Casmoussa described his plan to gather both Christians and Muslims to sign a petition to change the sentence on Aziz.

He noted that this campaign will be similar to one that was launched after former defense minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad was sentenced to death.

“For defense minister Sultan,” the archbishop recalled, “the people of Mosul — Muslims and Christians alike — signed a petition asking the prime minister and president of Iraq to save his life,” and three years later he is still alive.

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