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Middle East
Iraq vice-president rejects death sentence
Tareq al-Hashemi, found guilty in absentia of plotting two murders, dismisses verdict as "politically motivated".
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2012 20:50
Hashemi dismissed the Baghdad court's verdict as 'the final phase of a theatrical campaign [Reuters]

Iraq's vice-president has rejected his death sentence given by a Baghdad criminal court that found him guilty of masterminding the killing of two people. 

Tareq al-Hashemi denounced the verdict, which was handed down in absentia on Sunday, as "politically motivated" during a press conference in Turkey on Monday. 

Hashemi, who fled the country after Iraq's Shia-led government authorities had accused him in December of running a death squad, repeated his claim of innocence and said that he would not return to Iraq within 30 days as demanded by the court.

"Yesterday Prime Minister [Nouri] al-Maliki and his judicary concluded the final phase of the theatrical campaign against me using a kangaroo court set up for this purpose. It was really a shambles," he said.

"Therefore, while reconfirming my and my guards' absolute innocence, I totally reject and will never recognise the unfair, the unjust, the politically motivated verdict."

Hashem's case sparked a crisis in Iraq's government and has fuelled Sunni Muslim and Kurdish resentment against Maliki, who critics say is monopolising power.

Political vendetta

Hashemi himself has dismissed the charges against him as a political vendetta pursued by Maliki, his longtime rival.

The Baghdad courtroom was silent as the presiding judge read out the verdict convicting Hashemi and his son-in-law of organising the murders of a Shia Muslim security official and a lawyer who had refused to help Hashemi's allies in terror cases.

The court sentenced both men in absentia to death by hanging; they have 30 days to appeal the verdict.

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The judge said Hashemi was acquitted in a third case linked to the killing of another security officer, due to a lack of evidence.

The defence team began its closing statement with a searing indictment of the judicial system, accusing it of losing its independence and siding with the Shia-led government.

"From the beginning and through all procedures, it has become obvious that the Iraqi judicial system has been under political pressure," attorney Muayad Obeid al-Ezzi, the head of the defence team, told the court.

The presiding judge interjected, warning that that the court would open legal proceedings against the defence team if it continued to heap accusations on the court or the judicial system.

'No legal value'

After the sentencing, al-Ezzi told Al Jazeera: "This ruling has no legal value or effect. In-absentia rulings cannot be considered final or enforced. It should remain with the court until the person sentenced is handed over to authorities or arrested."

Iraq's government has accused Hashemi of playing a role in 150 bombings, assassinations and other attacks from 2005 to 2011 - most of which were allegedly carried out by his bodyguards and other employees.

Most of the attacks the government claims Hashemi was behind, targeted his political foes as well as government officials, security forces and Shia pilgrims.

The trial, which began last spring, featured testimony from Hashemi's former bodyguards, who said they were ordered, and then paid, to launch the attacks.

Government forces who found weapons when they raided Hashemi's house and that of his son-in-law also testified in the case, as did relatives of the victims.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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