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MARTINO-ABUJAMAL Mar-28-2008 (290 words) xxxi

Cardinal calls overturned death sentence in U.S. victory for life

By Cindy Wooden

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A U.S. appeals court decision to overturn the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted of killing a police officer in 1981, is a victory for human life, said Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

A panel of judges from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld Abu-Jamal's murder conviction March 27, but also upheld a lower court ruling vacating his death sentence.

In an interview published on the front page of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, March 28, Cardinal Martino said: "Justice is not accomplished by punishing with another crime. For this reason, every death sentence not carried out is a victory for man and for life."

Cardinal Martino said the basis of all human rights is the right to life.

"Therefore, even the criminal who committed a crime has the right to live" and to have the possibility to make amends for his crime and to be rehabilitated, he said.

Pope Benedict XVI publicly has expressed his opposition to the death penalty on several occasions, the cardinal said.

"The death penalty does not fit into the concept of justice because the defense of life -- which goes from conception to natural death -- is preferred in every way by the Holy See," which is why the Vatican supports initiatives to abolish the death penalty, he said.

The December U.N. resolution in favor of a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty "was an enormous step forward," Cardinal Martino said, but it simply asked nations not to carry out capital executions. More efforts are needed "to completely liberate the world from this atrocious way of exercising justice."


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