A three-judge panel has rejected evidence that could help clear Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi of terrorism charges, causing Hashemi’s team of lawyers to quit the case in protest. Hashemi’s trial is taking place in Baghdad, while the vice president is out of the country.
Hashemi’s attorneys wanted to introduce phone records and appointment calendars they say will help prove that Hashemi was out of the country or otherwise not in contact with his bodyguards when he allegedly paid them to carry out attacks. The judges say confessions from Hashemi’s former bodyguards last week are enough to discount any further evidence and forbade presentation of the records. They did, however, allow more witnesses to testify against the vice president today.
Because the judges will not permit the team to present any exonerating evidence, the lawyers quit the trial in protest, saying they do not want to be part of an unfair trial. Hashemi had repeatedly warned of a kangaroo court and wanted the trial moved to a neutral territory outside of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s influence. He also accused the government of coerced confessions. This afternoon he reiterated the sentiment when he said, "it became clear that there is a hidden political decision to incriminate me."
It was Maliki who, in December, first accused the vice president of terrorist violence, including one attack directed at Maliki. Al-Qaeda in Iraq later claimed responsibility for that one, but the prime minister insisted that his political rival was behind hundreds of other attacks carried out over several years. At the time, Iraqiya Slate leader, Dhafir al-Ani asked why Maliki dangerously kept this information hidden from the Iraqi people for so long.
Hashemi is reportedly undergoing medical tests in Turkey. Ankara has refused to hand him over to Iraq. He traveled there after spending time in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and even Iraqi Kurdistan where Maliki’s security forces were not legally able to arrest him. Not only have these accusations threatened to unravel the coalition government, they have also hurt relations between Iraq and Turkey.
Meanwhile, at least two Iraqis were killed and eight more were wounded.
A bomb in Tarmiya killed one civilian and wounded three others.
A man and a woman were wounded when an I.E.D. exploded in Rashad.
A man was wounded in a drive-by shooting in Kanaan.