By Büşra Şener
One of the top leaders of Iraq, Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, was convicted of forming death squads and sentenced to death in absentia in a trial conducted on Sunday. On Monday, he stated his innocence and rejected the verdict of the trial.
Al-Hashimi fled to Turkey after the terror charges against him in December 2011. There was a trial at which he was judged in absentia last Sunday. The trial sentenced him to death. Actually, the verdict did not mention the death squads directly, but focused on the death of two people, a lawyer and a security official. Al-Hashemi and his son-in-law were sentenced to death because of these murders.
The vice president declared his innocence and rejection of the verdict on Monday at a press conference in Ankara and requested the U.N. to prevent Iraq from carrying out executions. He also added: “ I am not worried about my life, I am worried about the future of my country.”
On the one hand, the other Sunni leaders of Iraq reacted angrily to the sentence, too. “The whole thing from the beginning was a conspiracy against the Sunnis,” said Sheikh Talal Hussain al-Mutar, the head of one of Iraq’s main Sunni tribes. “The whole investigation and courts were fake and controlled by the government. This will make the situation in Iraq worse.”
On the other hand, Shiite leaders welcomed the verdict and defended the court. “The sentence is a victory for all Iraqis and a victory for justice,” said Ali al-Alak, a leader of the Shiite-dominated Dawa Party and a close aide to Nuri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq. “Why are they trying to defend him? What are they planning for?”
Furthermore, a series of bombings and insurgent attacks on Sunday made the day one of the bloodiest days in Iraq, with over 100 deaths and many wounded, since U.S. troops withdrew last year.
While no one took responsibility for the attacks, attention is focused on Sunnis due to the verdict for Tariq al-Hashimi and his son-in-law.