x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Al Hashemi death squad trial delayed over venue dispute

The trial of Iraq's vice president, who is in Turkey, is delayed after his lawyer appeals for the case to be transferred to the federal Supreme Court on the grounds that it had jurisdiction over Iraq's highest officials.

BAGHDAD // The trial of Iraq's vice president, Tareq Al Hashemi, was delayed yesterday by a dispute over the venue. It has been rescheduled for Tuesday.

The delay came a day after Turkey said it would not extradite the Sunni official.

Mr Al Hashemi, whose trial was to have started on May 3, and his bodyguards face about 150 charges related to operating a death squad. Interpol has issued a "red notice" calling for Mr Al Hashemi's arrest.

He has dismissed the charges as politically motivated, and says he fears for his life after leaving Iraq weeks ago.

Muayad Al Izzi, one of Mr Hashemi's defence lawyers, said he appealed for the case to be transferred to the federal Supreme Court on the grounds that it had jurisdiction over Iraq's highest officials.

He also said the investigation into Mr Al Hashemi and his guards was flawed because confessions had been obtained "by force".

None of Mr Al Hashemi's bodyguards were in court.

Yesterday's hearing was over the assassinations of two security officials and a lawyer.

The charges against Mr Al Hashemi were first levelled in December after US troops completed their withdrawal, sparking a political crisis that saw the vice president's bloc boycott the cabinet and parliament over accusations that Nouri Al Maliki, the Shiite prime minister, was monopolising power.

Mr Al Hashemi and his political allies have slammed the charges as targeting their Sunni-backed Iraqiyya bloc, which won the most seats in March 2010 parliamentary elections but was outmanoeuvred for the premiership by Mr Al Maliki's alliance.

After the initial charges were filed, the vice president fled to the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, whose authorities declined to hand him over to the central government.

They then allowed him to leave on a tour of the region that has taken him to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

The Turkish deputy prime minister, Bekir Bozdag, said on Wednesday that Ankara "will not extradite" Mr Al Hashemi, whom he described as "someone whom we have supported since the very beginning".

Mr Bozdag's comments came a day after Interpol issued its red notice for Mr Al Hashemi's arrest on suspicion of "guiding and financing terrorist attacks".