Church opposes Iraq death penalty for archbishop's killer

Baghdad, Iraq - The Archbishop of Kirkuk, Louis Sako, said on Monday that the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq opposed the death penalty passed by an Iraqi court on the convicted killer of an archbishop in Mosul.

"This conviction does not meet Christian values," the cleric told AFP when contacted by telephone. "We are not satisfied with this decision because the church is against the death penalty."

Iraqi authorities announced on Sunday that Ahmed Ali Ahmed had been sentenced to death for his involvement in the murder of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho in Iraq's northern city of Mosul.

Archbishop Sako said the death sentence against a suspect "will also not help improve the situation" in Iraq which is plagued by sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites in addition to attacks against religious minorities.

He said the church had no details about the trial or the accused nor was it aware of the motives of the killers. It learnt about the sentencing from television.

"The announcement of the government gave very little detail. We do not know any of those responsible. We don't know why the archbishop was kidnapped,

whether it was due to political, religious or criminal intentions," he said.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Iraqi Central Criminal Court had sentenced Ahmed Ali Ahmed to death because of his involvement in the murder.

The cleric's body was found two weeks after he was kidnapped as he returned home after mass on February 29. The military had said they arrested a man directly involved in the murder two days after the body was found on March 13.

Dabbagh said Ahmed, also known as Abu Omar, was a wanted Al-Qaeda leader and was sentenced under anti-terrorism laws.

It was not known when the sentence would be carried out.