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Iraq's fugitive VP rejects death sentence

Fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has publicly rejected a death sentence by an Iraq court, calling it "politically motivated." Hashemi has also refused an order to return to Iraq within 30 days.

Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and a member of Iraqiya list speaks during a conference on compensation for victims in bombings that targeted Iraqi ministries in recent months, in Baghdad, Iraq

Irak Vizepräsident Tarek el Haschemi

Hashemi told reporters on Monday that he did not plan to return to face a death sentence recently handed down by a Baghdad court. The fugitive vice president addressed the media in Ankara, Turkey, where he took refuge earlier this year.

"While reconfirming my and my guards' absolute innocence, I totally reject and will never recognise the unfair, the unjust, the politically motivated verdict," Hashemi said.

"I am not going regardless of the time (limit). All I need is security, a fair court," said the vice president, referring to the order to return within 30 days.

A Baghdad court tried Hashemi in absentia for the murders of a lawyer and a brigadier general. The trial, which began in May, ended on Sunday with a guilty verdict and the court sentenced the vice president to death by hanging.

Hashemi's secretary and son-in-law, Ahmed Qahtan, was also sentenced to death.

On the run since 2010

Born in 1942, Hashemi became one of Iraq's vice presidents in 2006, about the same time his brother and sister were shot dead in separate attacks. When he assumed the role, Hashemi headed the Iraqi Islamic Party, said to have connections to elements of the Sunni insurgency. The party had represented the driving force in the National Concord Front, which masterminded the Sunni return to the political process after they boycotted the 2005 elections.

Hashemi later founded the Tajdid party, part of the Sunni-backed bloc that fared best in 2010 parliamentary polls, only to be outmaneuvered by Nouri al-Maliki, who retained the premiership. He has taken refuge in Turkey since April.

In May, Interpol issued an international Red Notice for the arrest of Hashemi on suspicion of "guiding and financing terrorist attacks." The police agency issued the notice, its highest possible alert, under an Iraqi warrant "as part of an investigation in which security forces seized bombing materials and arrested individuals."

kms/pfd (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)