The trial of Tariq Al-Hashemi, Iraqi vice-president charged with several counts of murder, has been adjourned till May 10.

Hashemi, who remains in the Turkish city of Istanbul, is not expected to attend the trial, initially scheduled to begin on Thursday.

The Sunni Muslim politician fled Baghdad in December when the Shia-led central government issued an arrest warrant for him and some of his bodyguards on "terrorism" charges.

He was accused murdering six judges and a series of other killings, charges that he dismissed as politically motivated.

Hashemi initially escaped to the autonomous Kurdish region in the north, where the authorities refused to hand him over.

They then allowed him to leave on a tour of the region that has taken Hashemi to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and now Turkey.

Earlier this month, Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, judiciary council spokesman, said in a statement: "There are many crimes that Hashemi and his guards are accused of and there were confessions obtained, including on the assassinations of six judges, mostly from Baghdad".

The statement said that 13 of Hashemi's bodyguards had been released for lack of evidence and another 73 remained in custody.

The delicately balanced ruling coalition in Iraq of Shia, Sunnis and Kurds began to crack in December after US troops left and the government tried to remove Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni deputy Prime minister, and made the accusations against Hashemi.

The central government and the Kurdish region have long-running disputes over political autonomy, oil rights and contested territories.

Source: Agencies