Iraqi VP death squad trial delayed

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iol wld july 8 iraqi death squad REUTERS Defendant Ahmed Shawqi, a former senior police officer, speaks about his involvement in the trial of vice-president Tareq al-Hashemi during an interview with Reuters.

Baghdad - The trial of Iraq's fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, accused of running death squads, was postponed on Sunday as judges await an appeals court ruling on the conduct of the trial.

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 US troops were pulling out worsened a brewing political crisis.

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

Hashemi's legal team said they presented an appeal to the federal appeals court after their requests for top government officials, including President Jalal Talabani, to testify were rejected by judges.

“Initially, we presented requests to the court about calling witnesses such as Talabani, (ex-vice president) Adel Abdel Mahdi, (Talabani's office manager) Nasser al-Ani and five MPs,” Muayad al-Izzi, who heads the vice president's legal team, told AFP, referring to a May 31 request.

“This request was rejected so we decided to present the request to the federal appeals court. The court demanded that the whole case be brought to them to review it, and to review our request.”

Earlier, a judge presiding over the Hashemi trial said: “We are obliged, as a court, to listen to the appeals court's ruling. They will examine it, and we will wait to see what they decide.”

The judge did not set a date for a further hearing, but Higher Judicial Council spokesman Abdelsattar Bayraqdar told AFP that it had been delayed until July 24.

Bayraqdar added that another case against Hashemi was due to begin October 1, but he did not give further details.

The case had previously been heard at the Central Criminal Court of Iraq's (CCCI) offices in Harithiyah, west Baghdad, but Sunday marked the first hearing of the trial in the CCCI's new location inside the Green Zone, in the building where now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein was tried.

The trial, which began May 15, has previously heard testimony that silenced pistols were found in raids on Hashemi's house and that his son-in-law, 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. - Sapa-AFP


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