BAGHDAD - Iraq’s fugitive Sunni vice president has denounced a murder conviction and death sentence against him as politically motivated, and said he would not return home from Turkey within 30 days as demanded.
Tariq al-Hashemi called the trial illegitimate and accused Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of orchestrating it as part of a political vendetta.
The vice president fled to Turkey after Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government issued the terror charges against him in December, the day after U.S. troops withdrew from the country. He would receive a retrial if he agrees to return to Baghdad — but Hashemi has refused, saying he will never get a fair hearing.
Sunni leaders who support Hashimi accuse Maliki’s government of trying to sideline them from a power-sharing arrangement meant to guard against the sectarian violence that continues to plague Iraq.
The court convicted Hashemi and his son-in-law in absentia of plotting the murder of a Shi’ite security official and a lawyer. The fugitive vice president has denied accusations that he oversaw paramilitary death squads responsible for targeting political opponents, security officials and Shi’ite religious pilgrims over a six-year period.
The verdict coincided with a wave of bombings and insurgent attacks that killed at least 100 people, making Sunday one of the bloodiest days in Iraq since American troops withdrew last year.
The onslaught began with gunmen killing and wounding Iraqi soldiers at an army post north of Baghdad. The violence continued with car bombs and other attacks reported in at least 10 Iraqi cities, including Shi’ite neighborhoods of Baghdad. In one of the deadliest attacks, two car bombs exploded near a market and Shi’ite shrine in the southern town of Amara, killing at least 14 people.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility, but Iraqi officials suspect al-Qaida militants, who have staged periodic attacks in their campaign to undermine Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government.
Source: VOA News