09/11/2012, 00.00
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Sentenced to death, Iraqi vice president flees to Turkey

Ankara said it would not extradite Iraq's vice president Tareq al-Hashemi. A court on Sunday convicted him in absentia of murder and sentenced to death. For the accused, the sentence was fabricated by the Shia-controlled government of Prime Minister Maliki.

Ankara (AsiaNews/ Agencies) - Turkey on Tuesday said it would not extradite Iraq's fugitive vice president Tareq al-Hashemi, after he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in absentia by an Iraqi court. "We will host Hashemi in our country as long as he wants to remain in Turkey. We will not hand him over," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara.

Hashemi, who is sheltering in Iraq's northern neighbour, was sentenced to death on Sunday for the murders of a lawyer and a brigadier general, after he was accused of running a death squad responsible for 150 killings.

Clamouring for his innocence, he said the trial was "politically motivated," the work of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Shia government.

On 19 December 2011, the day after the last US troops left the country, the Iraqi government in fact issued a warrant for Hashemi's arrest.

Hashemi fled first to the largely autonomous Kurdish north of the country, which declined to hand him over to Iraq's federal government. From there, he travelled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and then on to Turkey, all predominantly Sunni countries.

In a thinly veiled reference to Iran and its ties to the Maliki government, Hashemi also complained about the "growing influence of neighbouring countries in our internal affairs".

Hashemi is one of Iraq's most influential Sunni leaders.  His case has destabilised the country's institutions. Sources told AsiaNews that the ensuing instability and sectarian strife is political in nature.

In one of the bloodiest days this year, a series of attacks coinciding with Hashemi's sentence on Sunday hit Baghdad's Shia neighbourhoods and other parts of the country. More than 100 were killed and at least 250 were wounded.

In June alone, 237 people died in suicide attacks.


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