Judges in Baghdad say they are ready to try Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on charges related to three cases of terrorism. Last week, a judicial panel believed evidence compiled by the Maliki administration and concluded that Hashemi or his staff were involved in 150 acts of terror.
So far, about 70 members of his staff have been arrested, but Hashemi was able to elude capture by traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan where he is a guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Their unwillingness to hand Hashemi over to Baghdad could strain already enflamed ties between the central government and the semi-autonomous provinces that make up Kurdistan. Although the Kurds are not particularly sympathetic towards Hashemi, many are interested in humiliating Baghdad.
Hashemi himself gave a half-hour-long speech in which he denied the charges and made his own accusations. He claims to have evidence that his staffers have been subjected to torture and are being held in secret prisons. He also asked Iraqis not to believe the judicial panel, which should be investigating the charges discreetly instead of becoming a "partner [with Maliki] in influencing public opinion."
Hashemi is willing to clear his name in court but is demanding a trial be held in a neutral city where Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cannot influence the outcome. According to the vice president, Maliki has corrupted the court system in Baghdad. Also, the terrorism charges were made, perhaps coincidentally, as U.S. troops were leaving Iraq in December. This turn of events triggered a surge in violence that only recently tapered off.
Meanwhile, at least seven Iraqis were killed and 16 more were wounded in new attacks.
Mortars struck an army H.Q. in Nahrawan, leaving two soldiers dead and four wounded.
A sticky bomb in Jalawla killed one person and wounded two others. The dead man was a former civil defense lieutenant.
One policeman and a bodyguard were killed during a blast in Ramadi.
Gunmen killed a police interrogator in Qaim.
Five people were wounded in a sticky bomb blast in Jalawla.
In Mosul, a bomb wounded two people.
In Baghdad, a brigadier general was shot and wounded on a highway.
A policeman was wounded during a drive-by shooting in Tuz Khormato.
A blast near the Samawa home of a representative working for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani left no casualties.
In Hilla, gunmen shot at a home belonging cleric Mahmoud Al Hassani al-Sarkhi, but no casualties were reported. Separately, arsonists set fire to the cleric’s offices in Qadisiya. Leaflets distributed in Mussayab accused Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani of ordering the arson attack.