Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi’s trial on terrorism charges was postponed one week at the request of his lawyers. It was to have opened today. His attorneys asked for the delay to demand parliament set up a special court.
The top Sunni politician in Iraq, Hashemi claims the charges are politically motivated. He has also stated that he fears becoming the victim of a show trial in Baghdad where the courts are, at the very least, sympathetic to his political rival, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
If parliament is able to produce a court sufficiently free from Maliki’s influence, there is a chance that Hashemi could return from Turkey to answer the charges. Last December, when it was apparent that he was Maliki’s main Sunni target, Hashemi fled to Iraqi Kurdistan before traveling on to Istanbul during a tour of Arab states. While a guest of the Kurds, Hashemi demanded his trial take place there or in another neutral justice system. Hashemi’s lawyers say there is precedent for a special court trial.
The vice president stands accused in about 150 cases, but today he would have faced only three charges. Those involve the murders of two ministry officials and a lawyer. So far, thirteen of Hashemi’s staffers, of the 78 arrested, were released for lack of evidence. Three others died in detention. Hashemi insists the three died while being tortured into giving false confessions. Also, al-Qaeda in Iraq later claimed credit for at least one bombing attempt blamed on Hashemi.
Hashemi’s trial was to have taken place at the Central Criminal Court in Baghdad‘s Harthiya district. At about 8:00 a.m. there, a shooting left one Iraqi soldier dead. Two explosives experts were wounded as they were trying to defuse three bombs that were discovered nearby. Separately, in Kirkuk, a teenager was found beaten and stabbed to death.