Politics

Tariq al-Hashimi, Iraq VP, denies terrorism charges

tariq_al_hashimi_iraq_vice_president.jpg

Iraq's Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi, pictured here on a visit to Japan in March 2007.

Credit:

Kazuhiro Nogi

Iraqi Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi has denied ordering attacks against government officials, a day after a warrant was issued for his arrest on charges of terrorism.

Hashimi, a Sunni, accused his Shia colleagues in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government of trying to slander him and derail national reconciliation.

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Speaking at a press conference in Irbil, northern Iraq, Tuesday, Hashimi said he was "shocked" by the allegations, reported the Associated Press:

"I swear to God that al-Hashemi didn't commit any sin or do anything wrong against any Iraqi either today or tomorrow, and this is my pledge to God. [...]

"Al-Maliki is behind the whole issue. The country is in the hands of al-Maliki. All the efforts that have been exerted to reach national reconciliation and to unite Iraq are now gone."

Hashimi has chosen to take refuge in Irbil, the capital of Kurdistan province, since the region's semi-autonomy will make it difficult for Maliki's security forces to take him into custody him there, according to the New York Times.

He said he was prepared to stand trial only in Kurdistan, not in Baghdad, where he claimed he would not receive a fair hearing. He assured he would not flee Iraq.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, has offered to take responsiblity for Hashimi's security, the vice-president said.

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Iraq's Interior Ministry ordered the arrest of Hashemi Monday, broadcasting video footage that they claimed shows Hashimi's bodyguards confessing to carrying out assassination plots on the vice-president's orders.

Hashimi's predominantly Sunni political bloc, Iraqiya, reacted angrily to the warrant. Members held an emergency meeting in Baghdad at which they discussed possibly withdrawing from the ruling coalition Maliki leads, reported the Wall Street Journal. The weekend prior to the arrest warrant, the party suspended its participation in parliament until at least the end of the year, Bloomberg said.

Iraqiya has increasingly complained about what it describes as Maliki's "authoritarian tendencies and reluctance to share power," according to the AP.

Deputy Prime Minister and Iraqiya member Saleh al-Mutlak told the BBC that Iraqi Sunnis were "oppressed" by Maliki's government, calling the prime minister "a dictator."

A spokesman for Maliki said the arrest warrant was a judicial, not a political, matter.

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