Russia calls for 'clemency' for Iraq's Tareq Aziz
Russia's foreign ministry on Wednesday called for "clemency" for former Iraqi deputy premier Tareq Aziz after he was sentenced to death by hanging for murder and crimes against humanity.
"It is obvious that considerations of elementary humanity demand that he is shown clemency," the ministry said in a statement, calling on the Iraqi authorities to take account of Aziz's age and ailing health.
"We would like to be able to count on Iraq's presidential council not allowing this sentence to be enforced," the ministry said, acknowledging however that the sentence was Iraq's "internal affair."
Iraq's supreme criminal court imposed the death sentence on Aziz, the long-time international face of the Saddam Hussein regime, on Tuesday after finding him guilty of "deliberate murder and crimes against humanity."
Aziz turned himself in to US forces in April 2003, days after the fall of Baghdad and was sentenced to death along with two other pillars of the former Iraqi regime, former interior minister Saadoun Shaker and Abid Hmoud, a one-time aide to Saddam.
Russian lawmakers earlier in the day denounced the death sentence imposed on Aziz after he was convicted on charges of murder and crimes against humanity.
"What has happened in Iraq is the elimination of a witness and a settling of accounts between different religions, not a victory for justice," Mikhail Margelov, the head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia's upper house, the Federation Council, was quoted as saying by Interfax.
"Nothing can justify this sentence," he added.
"We will... call on the international community and parliamentarians in Europe and the United States to prevent this assassination," the head of Russia's Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov, was quoted as saying by Interfax, describing Aziz as "a very sick old man."
© 2010 AFP