Fugitive Iraqi VP Hashemi leaves Turkey for Qatar

Iraq's Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi speaks to the media as he leaves a meeting with Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, unseen, in Ankara, Turkey, Sept. 9, 2012. (Photo: AP, Karim Kadim )

November 26, 2012, Monday/ 08:27:00

Fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi has left Turkey for Qatar for talks, a Qatari news agency said on Sunday.

Sunni vice president Hashemi, who was given three death sentences by an Iraqi court after it found him guilty of ordering his bodyguards to attack Shiite pilgrims, took refuge in Turkey, fueling tensions between Turkey and Iraq.

All verdicts have been delivered in absentia, since Hashemi is in exile in Turkey after fleeing in December 2011, when the Shiite-led government leveled the accusations against him.

Hashemi is a longtime opponent of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim. The government has accused the vice president of playing a role in some 150 bombings, assassinations and other attacks from 2005 to 2011. That was a period when Iraq was mired in the retaliatory sectarian violence that followed the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime.

Hashemi has dismissed the charges as a political vendetta pursued by his long-time rival, Maliki.