Iraq’s Hashemi rejects death sentence verdict

Iraqi vice-president denounces death sentence against him as politically motivated and issued by a “kangaroo court”.

Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were never friends. Their relationship very much reflecting the Sunni-Shia divide so pronounced in post 2003 Iraq.

So on Sunday evening, a few hours after the verdict, a smiley and relaxed Hashemi emerged from the residence of Turkey’s foreign minster in Ankara.

He seemed more of a man on an election campaign than anything else. He was relaxed and promised a press conference to be held Monday morning.

After all, despite a life sentence hanging over him, he was safe, since for Turkey he is a guest and a free man for as long as he desires.

Hashemi rejected the verdict, calling the court illegitimate and pointing the finger at the prime minister for wanting to grab all the power.

It’s a very serious case that could deal a huge blow to Iraq. By coincidence, or not, they were about 20 deadly attacks around the country on the day of the verdict. Most before, a few after the conviction.

For Hashemi, this is a political trial and Maliki is behind it. The two men had at best a frosty relationship.

They distrusted each other. Maliki saw in Hashemi, a sunni, a man who allegedly organised death squads and orchestrating at least 150 attacks over a six year span.

Hashemi saw Maliki, as the Shia, a sectarian who wants to completely exclude Sunnis from the political process.

Similar views – maybe not so extreme – are shared by many Iraqis from Baghdad to Basra.

In the meantime, bombings have increased. July being the deadliest month in two years. The targets police stations, a bird market, security forces etc, just like in the past.

And the same old question: can Maliki hold the security situation? By the looks of it, it’s a struggle and will continue to be unless there is new energy injected in the national reconciliation process.

The Kurds in the north have also locked horns with Baghdad. They backed the Al Iraqiya – a party that includes Hashemi – in calling for a vote of no confidence.

They failed despite being the largest bloc in the national assembly.

Hashemi was sentenced to death – along with his son in law – in relation to the killing of a lawyer and a shia security official only, not for the alleged death squads.

In Iraq, politics go hand in hand with violence. Prospects of a political compromise are slim.

Hashemi will stay in Turkey, Maliki in Baghdad while Iraqis fear that the dark days of the sectarian war – when going to the local market meant risking to be blown up into smithereens – are coming back to haunt them.

Follow Hoda Abdel-Hamid on Twitter: @HodaAH

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