Iraq’s Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was accused of running death squads during the civil war that followed the American and British invasion in 2003. He fled Baghdad months ago and is now in exile in Turkey. Hashemi was sentenced to death last Sunday. The judgment came on a day wherein violence is spreading across Iraq which left at least 79 people dead and 270 wounded.
The charges were all about the masterminded death squads against rivals in a terror trial that has started sectarian tensions in the country. Underscoring the instability, insurgents unleashed an onslaught of bombings and shootings across Iraq, killing 100 people. It was one of the deadliest news that time.
It is unlikely that the attacks in 13 cities were all timed to coincide with the afternoon verdict that capped a month-long case against Tariq al-Hashemi, a longtime foe of Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The violence and verdict could energize Sunni insurgents bent on returning Iraq to the edge of civil war by targeting Shia and undermining the government.
Although the worst of the civil war may have been only in our memory, there is no sign of an end to the continuing regular attacks by Sunni terror groups associated with al-Qaeda. Another 56 people were killed in a wave of bombings across the country last Sunday. The attacks centered on military and security targets across the country, with 11 cities struck. In the worst, 14 people were killed by a double car-bomb outside a shrine in the south of the country.
Al-Hashimi was sentenced to be hanged because he was involved directly in killing a female lawyer and a general with the Iraqi army. This is according to Abdul Sattar al-Berqdar, a spokesman for Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council. The arrest warrant for al-Hashimi was released soon after his Iraqiya party declared it would boycott Parliament, stating al-Maliki was cutting it out of the decision-making process.
The Sunni-majority party has since ended its boycott, though al-Hashimi remains a fugitive.
One of his political allies stated that he did not receive a fair trial because he was not in Baghdad when the statement was released.
The death sentence and the violence raise questions about the stability of Iraq just 9 months after U.S. troops were withdrawn.