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May 29, 2017

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Iraqi VP says he is innocent, terror trial a sham

BAGHDAD--Iraq's fugitive Sunni vice president on Monday declared his "absolute innocence" in a terror trial that had sentenced him to death on charges of masterminding the murder of rivals, and rejected the conviction against him as a politically motivated sham.

Tariq al-Hashemi, who fled Iraq after the government brought charges against him, said he will not return to appeal the verdict unless he can be assured of a fair day in court.

Speaking from his exile in Turkey, al-Hashemi said a fair trial would be impossible in Baghdad and accused Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — a Shiite and the vice president's longtime foe — of manipulating the courts against him as part of a political vendetta.

"The verdict is unjust, politicized, illegitimate and I will not recognize it," al-Hashemi told reporters in the Turkish capital, Ankara. "But I put it as a medal of honor on my chest because it was al-Maliki, not anyone else, behind it. I'm proud that it is al-Maliki, and not anyone else, to target me."

"The death sentence is a price I have to pay due to my love for my country and my loyalty to my people," he added. "I reiterate that I'm innocent, and am ready to stand before a fair judicial system and not a corrupt one that is under al-Maliki's influence."

Asked directly if he will return to Baghdad within 30 days to seek a retrial, as is his right under Iraqi law, al-Hashemi said: "I'm not going, regardless of the time scale that has been offered to me."

Spokesmen for al-Maliki and the Iraqi government could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

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