ISTANBUL // Turkey will not hand over Iraq's fugitive Vice President Tareq Al Hashemi, who faces a death sentence against him in Baghdad, and he can remain in Turkey as long as he needs to, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said today.
"I'll say it very clearly. We will be willing to host Mr. Hashemi as long as he wants, and we will not hand him over," Erdogan told a news conference in the capital Ankara.
An Iraqi court sentenced Hashemi to death by hanging on Sunday after a trial on charges that he ran death squads.
The sentence for Hashemi, a senior Sunni Muslim politician, threatened to stoke sectarian tension in Iraq, where a Shi'ite-led government is battling political instability and a Sunni Islamist insurgency nine months after US troops left.
Hashemi, a fierce critic of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki, fled Iraq after the authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in December, a step that risked shredding a fragile power-sharing agreement among Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs.
"There is no truth in the accusations against him. To the contrary, Hashemi has unfortunately lost family members in Iraq," Erdogan said. "It is out of question for him to be involved in such acts."