, ANKARA, Sept 11 – Iraq’s fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on Monday rejected his death sentence for murder and ruled out returning home until he is guaranteed security and a fair trial.
Iraq’s leading Sunni Muslim official, who has taken refuge in Turkey, also lashed out at his rivals in the Shiite-led government over the continued violence there and what he said was widespread corruption.
“While reconfirming my absolute innocence and that of my guards, I totally reject and will never recognise the unfair, the unjust, the politically motivated verdict, which was expected from the outset of this funny trial,” Hashemi told a news conference in Ankara.
“I consider the verdict a medal on my chest.”
An Iraqi court on Sunday sentenced Hashemi in absentia to death by hanging for the murder of a woman lawyer and a brigadier general. He had been accused of running a death squad, with he and his bodyguards facing around 150 murder charges.
Hashemi branded the sentence “the final phase of the theatrical campaign” carried out by his rival, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and “his politicised judiciary”.
He lashed out at Maliki, accusing the Shiite Muslim premier of “aggressively” pushing Iraq towards fresh sectarian strife.
He also lambasted him for what he called the “the widest-scale corruption, the mismanagement, the ongoing discrimination among Iraqi people, the ongoing drift from building a real democracy to restore a tyranic regime.”
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who has sought in vain to convene a conference aimed at bridging sharp political differences, warned that the verdict could hamper efforts at national reconciliation.
“It was regrettable that the judicial decision against him was issued at this particular time,” a statement on Talabani’s website said. “He is still officially in office, which could become an unhelpful factor that… may complicate efforts to achieve national reconciliation.”
Hashemi, who has been in Turkey since April, said he would consider going back to Baghdad only if his security was guaranteed and if he was guaranteed a fair trial.
“If the fair court is guaranteed tomorrow even, if the United Nations… assures me fair court in Baghdad, I’m ready to attend tomorrow. No problem,” he said at the press conference where he spoke both in Arabic and English.
“But all what I need is security, a fair court according to the Iraqi constitution which is not available for the time being.”
Hashemi said he had appealed to the United Nations to establish a joint court with Iraq, saying he would “welcome any verdict” by such a tribunal.
The fugitive vice-president also lashed out at the international community for a “very slow” response to the deadly violence in his country, and for “not taking tangible measures to stop or to tackle the real tragedy in Iraq”.
His verdict was announced amid a wave of attacks in Iraq that killed at least 88 people at the weekend.
Hashemi also made a veiled reference to Iranian involvement in Iraq, speaking of the “growing influence of neighbouring countries into our internal affairs.”
He also accused the United States of turning a blind eye to Maliki’s “disastrous conduct and policy” because of the November presidential election.
Iraq’s Shiite-led government opened charges against Hashemi in December after US troops pulled out from the country.
Hashemi fled to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, which declined to hand him over to the federal government, and he then embarked on a tour that took him to Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Hashemi has a residence permit for Turkey and has been assured by Ankara that he would not be extradited to Iraq.
Relations between Ankara and Baghdad have been marred by a flurry of disputes this year, including Hashemi’s presence in Turkey, and attacks by Turkish forces on Kurdish rebel hideouts in Iraq.
“I am not worried about my life,” said Hashemi. “I am worried about the future of my country. I am worried about the relationship between Turkey and Iraq.”