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Iraqi President Won't Sign Aziz Death Warrant

Tariq Aziz, former Iraqi foreign minister and deputy prime minister, has been sentenced to death by hanging. Hadi Mizban/ap hide caption

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Hadi Mizban/ap

Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish president of Iraq, says that he won't sign an order putting Tariq Aziz to death. Aziz held many roles in the government of Saddam Hussein, but is remembered best outside of the country as being the international face of the regime.

The Associated Press reports that Talabani made his statement on French TV:

"I cannot sign an order of this kind because I am a Socialist," Talabani told France 24 TV, in an interview aired Wednesday. "I feel compassion for Tarik Aziz because he is a Christian, an Iraqi Christian."

"In addition, he is an elderly man - aged over 70 - and this is why I will never sign this order," Talabani said in Arabic through a translator.

The 74-year-old Aziz was sentenced to death last month for involvement in the killing of members of the Shiite Dawa party during the Saddam era. The current Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, is a Dawa party member. Aziz had already been sentence to decades in prison on other charges.

This is not the first time Talabani has expressed his discomfort with the death penalty. He actually never signed Saddam Hussein's death warrant either, as required by Iraqi law. Instead he deputized a vice president to do the deed for him.

Aziz is quite ill, and earlier this year predicted he would die in prison.