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Iraqi Bill To Force President To Sign Death Sentences

Iraqi President's Jalal Talabani
Iraqi President's Jalal Talabani
BAGHDAD -- A leading member of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's political party said a draft law is being prepared that would make it obligatory for the president to sign death sentences, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Hussein al-Assadi told RFI that his bloc has halted a judicial procedure against President Jalal Talabani and decided to instead pass this draft law that would force him to sign outstanding death sentences within 15 days.

He added that he believes all of the political parties in parliament will approve the legislation and make it law.

Talabani has thus far refused to sign court-ordered death sentences which can therefore not be carried out.

Several deputies from the State of Law bloc have accused Talabani of violating the constitution by refusing to sign the execution orders for two officials from Saddam Hussein's government: former Defense Minister Sultan Hashim and ex-Army chief Hussein Rashid, both of whom were sentenced by Iraq's Supreme Criminal Court.

Al-Assadi said that if the draft law is adopted it would be retroactive and allow Justice Ministry officials to carry out the previously issued death sentences without seeking the president's approval.

Talabani has refused to sign the death sentences because he is personally opposed to capital punishment. He is a signatory to an international document against death sentences.

Judge Abdul Sattar al-Bairaqdar, a spokesman for Iraq's Supreme Judiciary Council, said the number of death sentences awaiting Talabani's approval is more than 500, including those issued by the Supreme Criminal Court.

Talabani also refused to sign the death sentence for Saddam Hussein in 2006 but delegated his powers to his vice president so that the execution could take place.