x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Tariq Aziz seeks pardon from Iraqi president

Defence team of international face of Saddam Hussein's regime will seek a presidential pardon instead of appealing the death sentence.

BAGHDAD // Lawyers for Tariq Aziz, the longtime international face of Saddam Hussein's regime, said Monday they will seek a presidential pardon to spare him from execution.

Attorney Giovanni Di Stefano said Aziz's defense team would ask for the pardon instead of appealing his death sentence, handed down last month for the Saddam-era persecution of Shiite Muslim political parties.

It's a risky legal move, considering Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has granted few, if any, pardons in his more than five-year tenure and could be prevented from doing so in this case. But it comes amid pleas from the Vatican and several anti-death penalty nations in Europe for amnesty for Aziz, the only Christian in Saddam's inner circle.

"This could be the diplomatic solution people have been waiting for," Di Stefano said in an interview on Monday.

Aziz "does not want special treatment because he is a Christian," Di Stefano said. "He seeks the pardon as a step toward reconciliation of Iraq. Enough people have been killed, enough people have been executed."

A Talabani spokesman could not immediately be reached on Monday evening for comment.

Last week, the Iraqi president said he would not sign Aziz's death warrant, explaining that he believed it was wrong to execute the 74-year-old Christian. But there are ways in Iraq's constitution to bypass the president in capital cases - such as an act of parliament or the approval of one of Talabani's deputies.

Additionally, the constitution says Iraq's president can only grant pardons "on the recommendation of the prime minister." Iraq's current prime minister is Nouri al Maliki, whose Shiite Dawa party was the main victim of the crimes Aziz was convicted of committing.

Di Stefano dismissed the constitutional limits as "no problem" and predicted the pardon would be granted.