A terrorism trial against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi opened today in Baghdad. He is accused of masterminding or financing about 150 terror attacks. This trial, however, focuses on three assassinations only. Hashemi was not present at the trial and is believed to be in Turkey.
The trial was scheduled to begin on May 3 but was delayed as lawyers asked for a venue change. They fear that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has control of the Baghdad judiciary, so Hashemi’s attorneys argued to have his case heard by a special parliamentary tribunal instead. They say there is good precedent for the move; but, the same panel that is accused of siding with Maliki said they would postpone the trial no further. The Supreme Court is still considering the request.
The court, so far, has heard from the families of those whom Maliki is accused of killing. Also among the witnesses was personal bodyguard Ahmed al-Jubouri, who testified that the vice president paid him and his associates $3000 to assassinate a security official. Another bodyguard implicated Hashemi’s son-in-law, Ahmed Qahtan.
Even though some accusations against Hashemi are several years old, they only came to light as U.S. troops finalized their withdrawal from Iraq. Because Hashemi was not the only rival targeted by the prime minister’s office, Maliki’s critics say this is all part of a campaign to marginalize Sunnis. Hashemi has maintained that any confessions from his staff were coerced and he has had no involvement in any attacks. Three Hashemi staffers have died while in detention. The vice president accused the government of torturing them to death.
Hashemi first fled to Iraqi Kurdistan where Baghdad could not arrest him. Then he traveled to several countries before landing in Ankara, where Hashemi is reportedly undergoing medical exams. Ankara has refused to honor any extradition requests, even though Interpol has issued a "red notice" for the vice president.
At least 20 Iraqis were killed and 58 more were wounded in new violence.
Seven military personnel were killed and 20 bystanders were wounded when a suicide car bomber struck at a post in Mosul. A car bomb wounded five more. Gunmen killed a member of the judicial council and his driver. Two car bombs were deactivated.
In Baghdad, a bomb at a cafe in the Diyala Bridge neighborhood left one dead and 15 wounded.
Gunmen killed a tribal sheikh and his son, who is on the municipal council, after forcing the pair out of their Himreem home.
Mortars meant for Ninewa Operations Command fell on civilian homes in central Mosul where they killed one person and wounded four others.
A grave containing at least two bodies was discovered near Taza.
Gunmen in Shirqat attacked a Health Department vehicle, killing one employee and wounding another.
Bombs in Mandali and Jalawla wounded two civilians.
An office of the Rapid Defense Force in Tikrit was mortared, but no more details were given.
A car bomb was found and deactivated in Saqlawiya.