15:20 10 September 2012
Iraqi Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi has rejected a guilty verdict and death sentence passed on him in absentia, citing the charge against him as "politically motivated" as he declared his "absolute innocence".
The fugitive VP was speaking at a press conference in neighbouring nation Turkey where he attacked the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who found him guilty of running death squads on Sunday.
Hashemi was the most senior Sunni Muslim politician in Iraq.
He said that he plans to continue serving his country and went as far as to describe his damning verdict as "a medal on my chest".
At the press conference, he also cited his annoyance regarding the "growing influence of neighbouring countries in our internal affairs".
The situation heated up on December 19th 2011, the day after the last of America's occupying troops pulled out of the country. It was on this day that a warrant was issued for Hashemi's arrest for his role in apparently masterminding terror attacks on officials and security forces, prompted the VP's dash to the Kurdish north followed by Qatar and finally Turkey.
Prosecutors say that he is involved in over 100 killings, while his former bodyguards told the trial in Bashdad that Hashemi had personally ordered murders.
The same court also found Hashemi's son-in-law guilty of murder and sentenced him to death by hanging.
As the verdicts were revealed, insurgents unleashed a series of bombings and shootings across Iraq resulting in - the Guardian speculates - over 100 deaths.
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