The Iraqi government said on Sunday that a leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq has been sentenced to death for the March killing of Chaldean Catholic Bishop Paulos Faraj Rahho.
According to Reuters, the Iraqi Central Criminal Court imposed the death sentence on Ahmed Ali Ahmed, who is also known as Abu Omar.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement that Ahmed was a leader of al Qaeda and had been sought for his involvement in a number of “terror crimes against the people of Iraq.”
Archbishop Rahho, the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, was kidnapped on February 29. He was ambushed after leaving a church where he had celebrated the Way of the Cross. A group of armed men opened fire on the archbishop’s vehicle, killing three aides before they abducted the clergyman.
The archbishop was found dead near Mosul on March 13. Police said it was not clear whether the 65-year-old man, known to be in poor health, had been killed or had died of natural causes.
Pope Benedict XVI called the archbishop’s death “an act of inhuman violence.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had blamed al Qaeda for the death and had vowed to bring the killers to justice. The Shiite Muslim-led government has been accused by Iraq’s declining Christian population of not doing enough to protect them from violence and persecution.
A number of Christian clergy in Iraq have been kidnapped and killed and a number of Iraqi churches have been bombed since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.