Iraq: Church opposes death penalty for killers of kidnapped bishop

Vatican City, 19 May (AKI) – The Iraqi Chaldean church opposes executing Ahmed Ali Ahmed, an alleged al-Qaeda leader sentenced to death on Sunday for his involvement in Iraqi Chaldean bishop Paulos Faraj Rahho’s murder earlier this year.

“We pursue peace, security and reconciliation in Iraq, all the things that Monsignor Rahho fought for during his life,” said Shlemon Warduni, current auxiliary bishop in Baghdad, quoted by the Italian bishop’s conference news agency SIR on Monday.

Rahho (photo) was kidnapped on 29 February outside his church in a shootout that led to the deaths of his driver and two bodyguards.

The bishop’s body was found in a shallow grave on 13 March in Kremlis, which lies about 28 kilometres east of Mosul.

“Monsignor Rahho, would not have accepted the sentence. Christian principles say it is not allowed to sentence someone to death, and instead it invites us to forgiveness, reconciliation and justice.”

Warduni also said there has been a slight improvement in the security situation in Iraq. “We hope that this continues and al-Qaeda is defeated,” he said.

Although there is no specific date for the execution of Ahmed, also known as Abu Omar, the US embassy has welcomed the verdict.

Before the US invasion in March 2003, there were an estimated 800,000 Christians in Iraq.

Some estimates suggest that the number has now halved.