From the safe haven of Turkey, the fugitive Iraqi vice president on Monday slammed his conviction for plotting death squads against his rivals as a politically slanted sham, insisting on his innocence.
Tariq Hashemi was sentenced to death by hanging Sunday on the terror charges, the culmination of a hotly debated case that he and his allies say is meant to push the Sunni Muslim leader out of power. Critics claim Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and his government have favored the country's Shiite Muslim majority and sidelined Sunnis, fueling resentment in a country still reeling from sectarian attacks.
Hashemi first fled to the semiautonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq in December after the accusations against him emerged. In his absence, a Baghdad court convicted the vice president and his son-in-law of orchestrating the murders of an attorney and a security official, handing down their sentences on Sunday.
In a news conference Monday in Ankara, the Turkish capital, the vice president alleged the trial was carried out by a "kangaroo court" and told reporters the death sentence was like “a medal on my chest.”
Hashemi also called on Iraqis to resist calmly, an exhortation that carries special significance the day after their country was battered with bombings and other attacks on Shiite targets.
The spasm of violence has aggravated fears that sectarian warfare will drag on in the country. The Islamic State of Iraq, an extremist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, declared Monday that the attacks were in retaliation for a recent series of executions of Sunni prisoners.
Turkey has not tried to send Hashemi back to Iraq, despite Interpol issuing a “red notice” to member countries requesting his arrest in May. The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet quoted an anonymous diplomat calling the death sentence “obviously a political decision ... an absurd situation.”
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles