Top Iraqi politician alleges political vendetta

May 4, 2012, 7:08 PM

Associated Press

ISTANBUL (AP) – Iraq’s vice president on Friday described a terror trial pending against him in Baghdad as part of a political vendetta that has wider repercussions for Iraqi unity and sectarian tensions across the Middle East.

The trial in absentia of Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Muslim, was postponed Thursday as his lawyers appealed to have parliament create a special court to hear the case that could deepen Iraq’s sectarian divide. Al-Hashemi has denied charges that he ran death squads that targeted government officials, security forces and Shiite pilgrims.

Al-Hashemi also alleged that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, may have engineered the trial to snuff out domestic opposition in case he is threatened by a revolt in Iraq similar to that in neighboring Syria.

“It could be a pre-emptive attack” stemming from concern about the upheaval in Syria, al-Hashemi said in an interview with The Associated Press in Istanbul.

“Al-Maliki apparently is very much sensitive to what’s going on in Syria. So from the sectarian angle, he tried to immunize himself in the future in addressing one of the principal political rivals,” he said, referring to his role as a frequent critic of al-Maliki.

A media adviser for al-Maliki disputed claims that the vice president was being targeted for political reasons and said the government does not interfere in the judicial system.

“We do understand that al-Hashemi might say anything to protect himself,” spokesman Ali al-Moussawi said. “The fugitive vice president should go to court and defend himself instead of launching accusations and allegations.”

Al-Hashemi denies allegations he is a lawbreaker, opening a news conference in Istanbul with a declaration that he is not a fugitive. His representatives maintain he left Iraq for diplomatic meetings with regional leaders, not to escape arrest.

The case against al-Hashemi highlights rifts that haunt Iraq after decades of dictatorship, war and civil conflict, and the departure of American troops. It also follows regional revolts that have toppled or undermined authoritarian leaders in the Middle East.

Most in the Syrian opposition, for example, come from the country’s Sunni majority, while President Bashar Assad’s regime relies on the minority Alawites, an offshoot from Shiism. Sunni Arab leaders in the Gulf see the Shiite-led government in Iraq as too soft on Syria, where the United Nations estimates at least 9,000 people, many of them civilians, have died in a government crackdown on dissent.

Additionally, 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.

Al-Hashemi, who fled to Iraq’s self-ruled northern Kurdish region in December to avoid arrest, warned of regional spillover if Iraq’s factions cannot unite and address the mismanagement that he blamed on al-Maliki.

“Iraq is the core of the geopolitical scene in the area. Whatever happens in Iraq is going to affect the neighboring countries,” he said. “We could end up in some sort of sectarian polarization in the Middle East.”

Iraq’s political crisis pits the mostly Shiite leadership against Sunnis and Kurds who accuse it of consolidating power even as public services deteriorate and security remains vulnerable. Last week, Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish autonomous region, threatened to let Kurds vote to secede from Iraq if the government crisis has not been resolved by regional elections in September.

In the AP interview, al-Hashemi said he understood the frustration that led Barzani to talk about partition but said the possibility was “not on the table” in Kurdish circles, at least for now.

“I sit down from time to time with Kurdish leaders and we talk freely and openly about the subject,” al-Hashemi said. “All politicians are very much interested in reaching a political solution rather than jumping into an Iraqi partition.”

On his own dilemma, the vice president held out hope of a settlement.

“I am ready, in fact, to show up in any court provided that I do receive a fair trial, according to the constitution, according to the international justice standard,” he said.

Then he added: “The whole case is politically motivated, so it is waiting for a political solution, not a legal solution.”


Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed from Baghdad.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

World News

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, ...

Associated Press

Israeli Cabinet approves cease-fire with Hamas; deal includes release of 50 hostages

Israel’s Cabinet on Wednesday approved a cease-fire deal with the Hamas militant group that would bring a temporary halt to a devastating war.

9 days ago

Palestinians leave their homes following Israeli bombardment on Gaza City, Monday, Oct. 30, 2023. (...

Associated Press

Israeli airstrikes crush apartments in Gaza refugee camp, as ground troops battle Hamas militants

A flurry of Israeli airstrikes Tuesday on a refugee camp near Gaza City leveled apartment buildings, leaving craters where they once stood.

1 month ago

Moroccan boys, Rayan and Ali walk amidst the rubble of their home which was damaged by the earthqua...

Associated Press

Powerful quake in Morocco kills more than 2,000 people and damages historic buildings in Marrakech

A powerful earthquake has struck Morocco, toppling buildings in villages and cities not built to withstand such force.

3 months ago

State Farm Stadium Gold Cup soccer arrests 2023...

Serena O'Sullivan

Police arrest five people after State Farm Stadium brawl on Thursday

Two people were arrested for a State Farm Stadium brawl after Thursday's soccer matches between Qatar and Honduras plus Mexico and Haiti.

5 months ago

Members of the Wagner Group military company load their tank onto a truck on a street. (AP Photo)...

Associated Press

Russia says Wagner Group’s leader will move to Belarus after his rebellious march challenged Putin

Russian leaders say the Wagner Group leader who staged a short-lived rebellion will move to Belarus and not face prosecution.

5 months ago

Associated Press

How (and when) to watch King Charles’ coronation in the US

There are plenty of options to watch the regalia-heavy event that serves as a formal confirmation of King Charles' dual role as head of state and titular leader of the Church of England.

7 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]


Desert Institute for Spine Care

Desert Institute for Spine Care (DISC) wants to help Valley residents address back, neck issues through awake spine surgery

As the weather begins to change, those with back issues can no longer rely on the dry heat to aid their backs. That's where DISC comes in.



Importance of AC maintenance after Arizona’s excruciating heat wave

An air conditioning unit in Phoenix is vital to living a comfortable life inside, away from triple-digit heat.

Top Iraqi politician alleges political vendetta