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 Iraqi VP Hashemi denies any involvement in 150 terrorist operations

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Iraqi VP Hashemi denies any involvement in 150 terrorist operations  18.2.2012 
By Al Arabiya

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Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi has rejected allegations that he ran death squads. Al-Hashemi has been hiding in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region since December 2011. Photo: Al Arabiya See Related Links
February 18, 2012

SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', —  Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has denied charges of terrorism leveled against him and said that he will leave the country altogether if he has to, in an interview with Al Arabiya on Friday.

Hashemi, who is currently living in the country’s northern semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, denied links to terrorist operations, saying that it is possible perhaps one of his security guards was involved.

He said he could not verify the “honesty” of his security guards after their confessions that they received orders from him personally to carry out target terrorist operations.

Late January, Iraqi security forces detained 16 of Hashemi’s bodyguards.

Local and international observers said that the Iraqi government cannot base charges against Hashemi on mere confessions from his bodyguards; especially since some of the arrested security guards looked as if they had been beaten during their confessions of their accounts on Iraqi TV channels.

On Friday, Iraqi courts said that the fugitive vice president and his security guards were involved in 150 terrorist operations against citizens.

Abdul Sattar al-Beer Qadar, representative of the country’s Higher Judicial Council, said that Hashemi and his security guards were involved in 150 terrorist operations including suicide bomb blast against visitors of Al-Imam Al-Kadhim mosque in Adhamiya in 2010, assassination of an the Iraqi actor Waleed Ja’aaz in 2006, targeting Iranian Shiite pilgrims in the country’s holy shrines, as well as citizens, doctors, lieutenants and military officers.

Late January, a source close to the government of Kurdistan said that there were unconfirmed reports that Hashemi had disappeared from the villa that he was staying in, making his whereabouts hard to trace. Another source said that there was a discussion on whether Hashemi had fled to either Turkey or Iran.

In January, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, said Ankara would not turn Hashemi away if he requested asylum, but said he should stay in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Hashemi’s Sunni-backed yet secular Iraqiya List objected on Friday to a proposal that the country’s Vice Prime Minister Salih al-Mutlaq fill the position of the fugitive vice president, describing the suggestion as an “immoral” transaction. Iraqiya Party said it cannot happen before the closure of Hashemi’s case.

On December, 2011, Hashemi was charged with running a death squad, and later rejected the opportunity to head to Baghdad to stand trial.

Early in January, Hashemi said that the charges being set against him were of a “sectarian nature” and were used as a ruse to get rid of him. Warning of sectarian consequences in the conflict-torn country, the wanted vice president said that he would only stand for trial in the Kurdish autonomous region as opposed to Baghdad, as it is independent from the country’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s grip.

“The Iraqi judicial council is under the control and the influence of the central government, and this is a big problem,” Hashemi said. “That is why I asked to move the case to Kurdistan. ... Justice here will not be politicized.”

The warrant against Hashemi has been the focus of a political row between Shiite al-Maliki and the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, which is a part of his national unity government and of which Hashemi is a member.

The political row between the country’s two main alliances started at the end of 2011, right after the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Iraq.

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