Iraq vice president rejects death sentence
on 10/09/2012 12:25:53
Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, who fled Iraq after the government brought the charges against him, called the trial illegitimate and accused Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite and long-time foe, of orchestrating it as part of a political vendetta.
"The verdict is unjust, politicised, illegitimate and I will not recognise it," Mr al-Hashemi said in the Turkish capital of Ankara.
"But I put it as a medal of honour on my chest because it was al-Maliki, not anyone else, behind it. I'm proud that it is al-Maliki, and not anyone else, to target me."
"The death sentence is a price I have to pay due to my love for my country and my loyalty to my people," he added. "I reiterate that I'm innocent, and am ready to stand before a fair judicial system and not a corrupt one that is under al-Maliki's influence."
Mr Al-Hashemi fled to Turkey after Iraq's Shiite-led government issued the terror charges against him in December, the day after US troops withdrew from the country.
He would receive a retrial if he agrees to return to Baghdad, but he says he will never get a fair hearing in a Baghdad court.
The politically charged case sparked a government crisis and fuelled Sunni Muslim and Kurdish resentment against Mr al-Maliki, whom critics say is monopolising power.
On Sunday Baghdad's criminal court convicted Mr al-Hashemi and his son-in-law, Ahmed Qahtan, of organizing the murders of a Shiite security official and a lawyer who had refused to help the vice president's allies in terror cases.
The two defendants were acquitted in a third case of the killing of a security officer due to a lack of evidence.
The charges were the first against Mr al-Hashemi to go to trial among the government's allegations that he played a role in 150 bombings, assassinations and other attacks from 2005 to 2011 - years in which the country was mired in retaliatory sectarian violence that followed the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime.
Most of the attacks were allegedly carried out by Mr al-Hashemi's bodyguards and other employees, and largely targeted government officials, security forces and Shiite pilgrims.
Most of the court evidence came from about ten of his former bodyguards, who said they were ordered by Mr Qahtan, and then paid, to carry out killings in small groups. Mr Qahtan managed al-Hashemi's vice presidential office.
Mr al-Hashemi has long accused the government of torturing the bodyguards into giving false statements. His defence team did not offer any witnesses or testimony during the trial's ten hearings.
Mr al-Hashemi - who has been in office since 2006 - is on Interpol's most-wanted list, but Turkey has shown no interest in sending him back to Baghdad, straining diplomacy between the two neighbouring nations.