18 April 2014, Friday
Today's Zaman

Iraqi VP suggests trial witnesses were coerced

18 May 2012, Friday /ISTANBUL
Iraq's fugitive vice president said Thursday that former bodyguards who are testifying against him in a terror trial in Baghdad might have been pressured into doing so by security forces.

The trial in absentia of Tariq al-Hashemi, who is in Turkey, started this week when agents who used to protect him said they were ordered to kill security officials and plant roadside bombs. Al-Hashemi, a Sunni Muslim, is accused of supporting death squads whose targets included government officials and Shiite Muslim pilgrims. 

He told The Associated Press in an interview on Thursday that he was innocent and a victim of a political vendetta by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim. The two have often sparred over the years in political battles as Iraq struggled to emerge from years of war and the U.S.-led occupation that followed the toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003. 

"I might in fact decide to stop dealing with the judicial system and withdraw all the lawyers and attorneys," said al-Hashemi, who alleges the trial amounts to political payback for his opposition to al-Maliki over the years. "I am absolutely innocent of all these allegations." 

The case threatens to paralyze Iraq's government by fueling simmering Sunni and Kurdish resentments against al-Maliki, who critics claim is monopolizing power. A warrant for al-Hashemi's arrest was issued the day after the last U.S. troops left Iraq in December. 

Interpol has issued a so-called "red notice" against al-Hashemi. It puts member countries on alert that he is wanted for arrest in Baghdad. In the interview, al-Hashemi suggested that Interpol had rushed to issue the notice without considering his record as vice president and his difficult relationship with al-Maliki, and that his Iraqi opponents were seeking to use the police agency to tarnish his reputation internationally. 

"I'm really disappointed," he said. He said Turkey, which has said it has no plans to turn over al-Hashemi to Iraq, had offered "technical help" in his case following the Interpol notice. 

"Many other Arab countries communicated with me and offered their services, and I'm making use of these services," he said. 

Regional powers Iran, led by a Shiite theocracy, and Turkey, which is mostly Sunni but espouses unity across sectarian lines, have supported opposing factions in Iraq. 

"I definitely feel secure in Turkey," al-Hashemi said. Though he added: "This is not the final destination, as far as I'm concerned. I'm planning to return back to my country." 

DIPLOMACY  Other Titles
KKTC pushing for Cyprus deal before end of this year
MEPs question EU Commission over funds to Turkey
Greece rejects extradition of leading DHKP/C member
Pro-gov't dailies report conflicting news on leaked audio on Syria
US warns against damage to ties over recurring media claims
KRG's Barzani visits Ankara for talks with Erdoğan
Villagers file suit against ministry over stray bullets from Syria
Chief ombudsman laments low implementation of KDK recommendations
Turkey says deeply concerned over events in Ukraine
Chinese deputy foreign minister in Ankara for inter-delegation meeting
‘Turkey will not remain silent over 'genocide resolution' if adopted’
Russia welcomes Turkey's assurances on observance of Montreux terms
Poland: NATO should send troops to east Europe, ignore Russia's objections
US looks to Turkey to uphold checks and balances
Dubai may be a hub for Turkey and Iran's illicit transactions
US House Speaker meets senior Turkish officials in Ankara
EU Minister Çavuşoğlu says Füle's comments on Turkey ‘balanced'
US Ambassador Ricciardone has talks with AK Party officials
Turkey's honorary consuls meet to discuss foreign policy
Iran to build cultural center in the heart of İstanbul
Loğoğlu: No Turkish institution in US works against Turkey
Erdoğan will further polarize Turkey as presidential election approaches
European Union concerned about rule of law in Turkey
Turkey seeks to restore dialogue with Serbia with FM's visit
Turkish Rights groups slam Egypt over execution ruling