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article imageIraq VP Tariq al-Hashemi sentenced to death

By Layne Weiss     Sep 9, 2012 in World
A court in Baghdad has found Iraq's fugitive vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, guilty of running death squads, and has sentenced him to death in absentia.
According to The Press Association, Iraq's Shiite government charged Hashemi in December, and he has been in exile ever since.
Hashemi was the most senior Sunni Muslim until he was charged and fled Iraq, BBC News reports.
Hashemi is believed to now be in Turkey and is unlikely to return to Iraq, Reuters reports.
According to The Press Association, under Iraqi law the vice president could receive a retrial if he did choose to return, but he considers the court to be biased, and has refused to appear, Reuters reports.
The VP denies the charges, and says they are nothing more than part of a "political vendetta" brought against him by the Shiite government, The Press Association reports.
Hashemi and other Sunni politicians have denounced Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as a dictator, accusing him of "deliberate provocation" that risked a downfall back to sectarian conflict in Iraq, BBC News reports. Maliki issued the warrant for Hashemi's arrest.
"The whole thing from the beginning was a conspiracy against the Sunnis," said Sheikh Talan Hussain al-Mutar, the leader of one of Iraq's main Sunni tribes, The New York Times reports. "The whole investigation and courts were fake and controlled by the government. This will make the situation in Iraq worse."
Since the last of the US troops left Iraq in December, Maliki's government has been in political deadlock, Reuters reports.
According to BBC News, Iraq's government coalition, which is comprised of Sunnis, Shiites, and secularists, seems to be in danger of collapsing. The issues have led to attacks by insurgents. Much of the recent violence has been blamed on Sunnis linked to al-Qaeda.
On Sunday, Tariq al-Hashemi and his son in law were found guilty of organizing the murders of a Shiite security official and lawyer who refused to assist Hashemi's allies in terror-related cases, The Guardian reports.
The two men were sentenced to death by hanging.
Hours before sentencing, a wave of bombs killed at least 58 people in Iraq when a car bomb hit a French consular office in Nassiriya, Reuters reports.
After the court's ruling, four more car bombs were set off, killing an additional 24 people. According to police, there was a blast outside a restaurant, and another in a commercial area.
According to BBC News, seven police officers were killed in Kirkuk, 11 soldiers were killed in an army base north of Baghdad, and at least 14 people were killed in the south-eastern city of Amara.
Additionally, attacks have also been reported in Tuz Khurmatu, Baquba, Basra, and Samarra.
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