Trial of Iraqi fugitive Sunni VP Tareq al-Hashemi
begins in Baghdad
Bodyguard Testifies In Iraqi
VP Terror Trial
Iraq's fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi (C)
arrives for a press conference on May 4, 2012 in
Istanbul. Hashemi, accused of running a
death squad, said that he has no faith in the Iraqi
justice system and fears for his life.' I have a
major lack of confidence and mistrust regarding the
principles of justice' in Iraq, the key Sunni
leader, who is on trial in absentia, told
journalists. Photo: Getty
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May 15, 2012
BAGHDAD, A bodyguard for Iraq's fugitive
vice president testified Tuesday that he was paid
$3,000 to assassinate a government security official
in one of hundreds of death squad killings that
authorities link to one of the nation's
highest-ranking Sunni leaders.
The testimony came on the first day of the Iraqi
government's terror trial against Vice President
Tariq al-Hashemi, who was not in court. He denies
the charges that for years he ordered killings of
Shiite pilgrims and government officials and says
they are politically motivated.
The case against al-Hashemi threatens to paralyze
Iraq's government by fueling simmering Sunni and
Kurdish resentments against the Shiite prime
minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who critics claim is
monopolizing power. The Sunni vice president has
been a longtime critic of al-Maliki, whose
government issued a warrant for al-Hashemi's arrest
the day after U.S. troops left Iraq last December.
Bodyguard Ahmed al-Jubouri testified that he gunned
down the security official, identified as Ibrahim
Saleh Mahdi, in November 2011 on al-Hashemi's
orders. Al-Jubouri said Mahdi's wife also was killed
in the drive-by shooting on a Baghdad highway.
"The next day, al-Hashemi received me (in his
office) and rewarded the team with a sum of $3,000,"
al-Jubouri told a three-judge panel at Baghdad's
criminal court. "At the end of the meeting, the vice
president said to me, 'God bless you.'"
Al-Jubouri said the death was ordered because Mahdi
had become "a source of annoyance" to al-Hashemi.
Al-Hashemi currently is in Turkey, where he has said
he is receiving medical treatment. His spokesman,
Fahad al-Turki, said al-Hashemi could not
immediately be reached for comment.
Some see the trial as another political power battle
"As far as I'm concerned, the issue of al-Hashemi is
more political than a legal one," said Sunni
lawmaker Hamid al-Mutlaq of the Iraqiya political
bloc, which opposes al-Maliki.
Evidence against al-Hashemi so far includes
purported confessions by several men said to be his
bodyguards, who all claimed to receive money for
each attack against officials working in Iraq's
health and foreign ministries as well as Baghdad
Al-Hashemi has hotly denied the confessions, saying
his bodyguards were tortured into making the
statements. He gave a national speech in March
accusing the government of torturing two of his
bodyguards to death allegations that the Iraqi
judiciary said it dismissed after an investigation.
The vice president believes he will not get a fair
trial in Baghdad's criminal court, and has asked
that the case be heard by a special tribunal
appointed by parliament. On Tuesday,www.ekurd.net
a judicial panel rejected arguments by al-Hashemi's
lawyers that the case should be further delayed
while Iraq's Supreme Court weighs whether to move to
The trial is focusing on the killings of two
security officials and a lawyer, incidents that
happened in 2010 and 2011. If convicted of the
terror charges, al-Hashemi could face the death
Violence has ebbed in Iraq, but Sunni insurgents
frequently launch attacks on the security forces. As
the trial was unfolding in the capital, a suicide
bomber drove an explosives-rigged fuel truck into
the front gate of an army post in a northern Iraqi
city, killing five soldiers.
Officials at the scene said another 15 people,
including three soldiers, were wounded in the attack
in Mosul, a former al-Qaida stronghold located 360
kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad. They
spoke on condition of anonymity because they were
not authorized to release the information.
Hashemi's trial has also strained relations between
Iraq and several of its Sunni neighbors, including
the Gulf states and Turkey.
Earlier this month, Interpol issued a so-called "red
notice" on al-Hashemi, which puts member countries
on alert that he is wanted for arrest in Baghdad.
But Turkey, which has provided sanctuary to al-Hashemi
and is on tense terms with his opponents in the
Iraqi government, is hesitant to pursue the Sunni
Turkish deputy prime minister Bekir Bozdag has said
al-Hashemi is in Turkey for medical treatment and
that the country had no plans to extradite him. The
minister also noted that Ankara had not had enough
cooperation from Iraq in its efforts to detain
supporters of the Kurdish rebel group PKK, which
carries out attacks inside Turkey from bases in
Al-Maliki's camp has blasted Ankara over the stance.
"Turkey is taking a position in supporting a symbol
of terrorism in Iraq," said Saad al-Mutalibi, a
lawmaker in the Shiite-dominated State of Law
political bloc that al-Maliki heads. "We do hope
that Turkey will reconsider this issue, otherwise
Turkey will be considered as a country that is
The trial opened with three relatives of security
officials and a lawyer who were killed between 2010
and 2011. They said they did not witness the
attacks, and only complained against al-Hashemi
after hearing the accusations against him in the
Journalists were ordered to leave the court during
the testimony of a fourth witness, identified only
as a former employee in al-Hashemi's media office.
Associated Press Writers Lara Jakes and Sameer N.
Yacoub contributed to this report.
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