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Fugitive Iraq VP Tareq al-Hashemi rejects death sentence

Iraq's fugitive vice president Tareq al-Hashemi today rejected his murder conviction and death sentence and ruled out returning home until he is guaranteed "security and a fair trial".

world Updated: Sep 10, 2012 21:41 IST

Iraq's fugitive vice president Tareq al-Hashemi on Monday rejected his murder conviction and death sentence and ruled out returning home until he is guaranteed "security and a fair trial".

"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 a news conference in Ankara.

"I consider the verdict a medal on my chest," he said.

An Iraqi court on Sunday sentenced Hashemi to death by hanging for murder and he said it had demanded his return back home within 30 days.

He branded the sentence "the final phase of the theatrical campaign" carried out by his political rival, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and "his politicised judiciary".

Hashemi, one of Iraq's top Sunni Muslim officials, was accused of running a death squad and he and his bodyguards had faced around 150 murder charges.

He took refuge with his family in Turkey in April and 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, calling for the UN to send judges directly to Baghdad to investigate the case.

"And I will welcome any verdict" by such a court, he said.

Asked if he would appeal Sunday's verdict, Hashemi said he had sent letters to the United Nations and its human rights agency but had not seen any " tangible action."

The fugitive vice-president also lashed out at the international community for its "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."

He also made a veiled reference to Iranian influence in the country.

Hashemi, who has a residence permit for Turkey and has been assured by Ankara that he would not be extradited to Iraq, met Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday.

Relations between Ankara and Baghdad have been marred by a flurry of disputes this year, including Hashemi's presence in Turkey.

"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. That makes me too much worried."

First Published: Sep 10, 2012 21:40 IST