Iraq's fugitive vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, has rejected a guilty verdict passed on him this weekend, declaring "absolute innocence" while claiming that the verdict and death sentence were politically motivated.
An Iraqi court found Hashemi, a Sunni, guilty of running death squads against both security forces and Shiites, sentencing him in absentia Sunday to death for the killings of a lawyer and a security official.
According to the BBC, while speaking at a press conference in Turkey, Hashemi said that the verdict was a "medal on [his] chest" and attacked the administration of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
"The death sentence is a price I have to pay due to love to my country and my loyalty to my people," he added, CBS News reported. "I reiterate that I'm innocent, and am ready to stand before a fair judicial system and not a corrupt one that is under al-Maliki's influence."
Hashemi fled to Turkey in December, when the Shiite-led government issued terror charges against him. He would receive a retrial if he returns to Baghdad, but has refused, stating that a Baghdad court would never give him a fair hearing.
BBC reported that Hashemi's case and sentencing has coincided with a surge in violence in Iraq. Ninety-two people were killed and more than 350 injured in more than 20 attacks across Iraq on Sunday, according to the BBC.