Iraq's president said Wednesday he won't sign off on a death penalty sentence against one of Saddam Hussein's closest confidantes, Tariq Aziz, setting the stage for a possible battle over the fate of the man known as the international face of the dictator's regime.
The decision to prosecute and execute members of Saddam's regime is a source of controversy in Iraq where many members of the country's Shiite majority, who suffered under the ousted Sunni-dominated regime, want vengeance for past crimes, according to The Associated Press.
Aziz, 74, was found guilty on Oct. 26 along with two other top regime aides "of the liquidation of members of religious parties" and sentenced to hang.
On March 11, the Iraqi High Tribunal had sentenced Aziz and Ali Hassan al-Majid, a senior official in Hussein's Baath party known as "Chemical Ali," to 15 years in prison for crimes against humanity in the killing of Baghdad merchants in the 1990s. Al-Majid, known for his role in poisonous-gas attacks on Iraqi Kurds, was hanged on Jan. 25, Bloomberg reports.