Tariq al-Hashimi, vice president of Iraq since the 2005 elections, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death today in absentia by an Iraqi court for allegedly running death squads.
Al-Hashimi, who left the country some months ago and was not present during the trial, has denied the charges and claims they are fabricated and politically motivated. The death sentence can be appealed. He is currently in Istanbul, Turkey.
CNN provides background on the death sentence for the fugitive vice president:
Al-Hashimi was sentenced to hang “because he was involved directly in killing a female lawyer and a general with the Iraqi army,” said Abdul Sattar al-Berqdar, a spokesman for Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council.
“There are many other charges against al-Hashimi, but this is one of the charges he was convicted of,” al-Berqdar said.
Reuters reports that the case has “triggered a crisis in the power-sharing government among Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish political blocs” in Iraq. The vice president had previously accused Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “of conducting a political witch-hunt against Sunni opponents,” a claim that the government has denied.
According to the BBC, “Hashimi was the most senior Sunni Muslim in the predominantly Shia Iraqi government until he was charged last December and went on the run.”
Al-Hashimi’s son-in-law Ahmed Qahtan apparently received a death sentence from the court on the same charges.
In May, Interpol issued an arrest warrant for al-Hashimi although CNN notes that “no apparent action has been taken to arrest him since the notice was issued four months ago.”