Iraq court says president cannot testify in VP case


Iraq court says President Jalal Talabani cannot testify in the trial of the country’s fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi

The trial of Iraq’s fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, accused of running death squads, was postponed Tuesday after defense requests to call President Jalal Talabani to testify were again denied.

Hashemi, last known to be in Turkey, is being tried in absentia along with several of his bodyguards in a case which when initially filed in December as U.S. troops were pulling out worsened a brewing political crisis.

The vice president, a Sunni, insists the charges filed by the Shiite-led government are politically-motivated.

“The federal appeals court rejected all of the appeals we filed, and returned the whole case to the CCCI,” said Muayad al-Izzi, head of Hashemi’s defense team, referring to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq.

Among the appeals was a request that Talabani and other top officials be brought to testify as character witnesses on Hashemi’s behalf. The request had previously been rejected by the court hearing the case, so the defense team attempted to have it overturned by Iraq’s federal appeals court.

After the appeals were rejected, a judge hearing the case set the date for the next hearing as August 14.

The trial, which began May 15, has previously heard testimony that silenced pistols were found in raids on Hashemi’s house and that of his son-in-law, while bodyguards and other officials say they were offered money, or were coerced, into carrying out attacks on the vice president's orders.

Hashemi, one of Iraq’s top Sunni Arab officials, was accused in December of running a death squad and, along with his staff and bodyguards, faces around 150 charges.

After the initial charges were filed, he fled to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region before embarking on a regional tour that has taken him to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and then Turkey. Ankara has said it will not extradite him to Iraq.