Iraq's fugitive Sunni vice president has denounced an Iraqi court's death sentence against him as an act of political retribution by the country's Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Speaking from exile in the Turkish capital, Ankara, Monday, Tariq al-Hashemi accused the Iraqi prime minister of manipulating the court to oppress him. In a ruling Sunday, the court convicted Hashemi in absentia of murdering a Shi'ite security official and a lawyer, and it handed him the death penalty. Hashemi said the rulings were politically motivated and said he will not return to Iraq to challenge them under what he called a “corrupt” judiciary.
Mr. Maliki's aides have denied that he influenced the trial.
Hashemi appealed to his supporters to respond to the verdict in a calm and civilized manner. Suspected Sunni insurgents carried out a series of deadly car bombings in Baghdad late Sunday, hours after the court's announcement. The attacks came at the end of a deadly 24-hour period in which at least 100 people were killed in bombings and shootings across the country. It was one of Iraq's deadliest days of the year.
In another attack Monday, a car bomb exploded near a restaurant in southern Baghdad, killing at least three people.
Iraq's Kurdish President Jalal Talabani Monday said the timing of the Hashemi verdict is “regrettable” because the vice president remains in office. He warned that the court's move may complicate Iraq's efforts to achieve national reconciliation.
Sunni leaders who support Hashemi accuse Mr. Maliki's government of trying to sideline them from a power-sharing arrangement meant to guard against the sectarian violence that continues to plague Iraq.