Cardinal says Saddam should not be executed

.- French Cardinal, Paul Poupard, head of the Vatican's department for culture and inter-religious dialogue was quoted on Wednesday as saying that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein should not be executed because all life is sacred, Reuters reports.

"Human life is always inviolable," Cardinal Poupard, was quoted as saying by Italy's Ansa news agency in response to a question about Saddam.

"Life is a gift and this is a universal principle and there are no exceptions," the Cardinal reportedly said outside of a conference in Rome.

"Every human creature, even the most wretched, was created in the image and likeness of the Lord. God is the master of life and of death," the agency quoted him as saying.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that cases in which the death penalty is justified have become "rare if practically non-existent" in modern times.

The Church says the death penalty can be inflicted only on very rare occasions when there is no other way of protecting human lives from an "unjust aggressor" who can continue to do harm.

Reuters speculated that such an exception would not appear to apply to Saddam, who is in custody and no longer a threat.  However, some argue that the political instability in Iraq, as well as the violent insurgency, could leave room for the slight possibility of Saddam’s escape.

Prosecutors at his trial in Iraq have demanded the death penalty for the ex-president and three of his former top aides for crimes against humanity following a 1982 crackdown on Shi'ites in which hundreds were killed and tortured.

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