Using the provisions of the existing mutual legal assistance agreement signed between Turkey and Iraq on Sept. 19, 1989, Turkey can refuse to hand over fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who is currently in Turkey, if the Iraqi government formally requests his handover.
The agreement on legal and judicial cooperation was approved in the Turkish Parliament on April 19, 1990 with Law No. 3638 and was published in the Official Gazette on Aug. 2, 1992. The agreement came into force on March 1, 1995. The agreement includes legal assistance in commercial, judicial and penal issues, extradition, the transfer of convicted persons and the recognition and approval of judicial decisions.
Article 43 of the agreement states that within the limits of certain rules and conditions, the two sides agree to extradite suspects against whom the judicial authorities of the other country have started legal proceedings or delivered a verdict of guilty.
However, Article 47 states that a request for extradition can be rejected if the requesting party's criminal investigation is motivated by a person's race, religion or political opinion. Turkey believes the charges leveled against Hashemi are trumped up by the Shiite-dominated Maliki government, which used its influence to put pressure on the judicial branch.
Under these circumstances Article 47 gives Turkey the right to turn down the Iraqi government's request to hand over Hashemi, the top Sunni official in Iraq's Shiite-led central government.
Hashemi arrived in Turkey in April to secure Ankara's help against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's policy of excluding Sunni politicians from power.
Hashemi asked for protection from Turkey due to the death threats he received. He was taken under special protection after he met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
Iraq has not yet formally requested Hashemi's handover from Turkey.
Hashemi fled Baghdad in December when the Iraqi government issued an arrest warrant for him, accusing him of running death squads against Shiite pilgrims, government officials and security forces. He denies the charges, which he says are “politically motivated.”
Turkish diplomatic sources confirmed to Today's Zaman that the legal assistance and extradition agreement between Turkey and Iraq is in effect. Article 87 states that the agreement has no expiration date.
Deputy Prime Minister and then-Interior Minister Beşir Atalay had also confirmed on Sept. 28, 2007 that the 1989 legal assistance and extradition agreement was still valid in addition to the other agreements signed between Turkey and Iraq, including the 1926 Ankara agreement and the 1946 Friendship and Cooperation agreement.
Hashemi said he believes he cannot receive a fair trial in Baghdad because the courts are controlled by Shiite Prime Minister Maliki and has asked to be tried in Kirkuk, a city divided between Sunni Arabs and Kurds.
The Iraqi government has said the case is purely criminal, that the prosecution is independent and that the government cannot intervene. A Baghdad judiciary panel rejected moving the case to Kirkuk and set a trial date for May 3 in Baghdad.
Hashemi is not expected to attend the trial. The exiled vice president warned that the existing political problems in Iraq may turn into an all-out sectarian war.
The Iraqi authorities' decision to issue an arrest warrant for Hashemi led to a political crisis in Baghdad and deepened the country's sectarian divide just days after the US military withdrawal.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently accused Maliki of pursuing “self-centered” policies against his coalition partners.
Hashemi arrived in Turkey after visiting Qatar and Saudi Arabia.