Iraqi VP refuses to recognize Baghdad court

London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi played down  reports that his name and position have been removed from the official website  of the Iraqi presidency, stressing that such reports are not true. Speaking to  Asharq Al-Awsat from Istanbul, al-Hashemi stressed that “I have been informed  that my name has been removed from the Iraqi presidency website, however my  staff have investigated this matter and it has been clarified that this website  is in the process of being updated.”
News reports were issued yesterday  claiming that the Iraqi presidency had removed al-Hashemi’s name from its  official website the day after his trial in absentia began in Baghdad. At the  time of publication, Iraqi presidency website contains profiles of Iraqi  President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Khazir Al-Khazai and Chief of Staff  Naseer al-Ani, whilst Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi’s name and image  were not present. A source within the Iraqi presidency, speaking on the  condition of anonymity, revealed that “this website is currently in the process  of being updated, and the technicians are still in the process”.
Iraqi  Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi told Asharq Al-Awsat “this issue is not  important to me, for I remain the Iraqi Vice President according to the  constitution, I have not handed in my resignation and I was not appointed in my  position by any figure, but rather I was elected by the Iraqi Council of  Representatives, and it alone is capable of withdrawing confidence from me.”
Al-Hashemi also revealed that he remains in contact with the Iraqi  presidency, although he acknowledged that the extent of this contact has  declined since he left the country for Turkey. Al-Hashemi said “the last  communication took place between myself and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and  this was one week before I travelled to Turkey” adding “when I was in Erbil I  would phone him [Talabani] from time to time, and when there is a need for me to  contact him, I will.”
In his first comments about his trial in Baghdad on  charges of directing death squads which began in absentia on Tuesday, Iraqi Vice  President Tariq al-Hashemi told Asharq Al-Awsat that “I was not surprised by the  decisions and course that this trial has taken, I expected everything that  happened, I expected their adherence to the fabricated confessions that they  forcibly obtained from some members of my protection detail and staff by  coercion and torture” adding “they will be relying on these false confessions.” The Iraqi Vice President also revealed that “some members of my protection  detail were subject to severe torture which ultimately led to their deaths.”
Al-Hashemi asserted that “Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki fears the  Iraqi people finding out the truth, and this is what I want to happen and why I  want the court to be transferred to Kirkuk or Erbil, in order to ensure  protection, safety and justice to members of my protection detail and staff, so  that any witnesses or defendant will not be subject to torture or intimidation.  This court transfer would take place according to Article 55 of the Penal Code,  and I repeat my insistence that I will only attend a court where safety and  justice is guaranteed, and this cannot happen in any court in the Green  Zone.”
He added “al-Maliki has prohibited this, telling the media that he  will not allow a court transfer until after the judiciary has made its decision,  whilst the judiciary issued the decision which was sought by the prime  minister.”
The Iraqi Vice President also stressed “I do not recognize  this court, so long as I am deprived of my right to appear in a court outside of  Baghdad to prove my innocence and the innocence of the other unjustly accused  defendants…they have accused myself and members of my protection detail of any  and all crimes committed by unknown parties.”
Iraqi Vice President Tariq  al-Hashemi also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the international community is  responsible for its silence about what is happening with regards the injustice,  detentions and torture of Iraqis…and this was confirmed by the latest Human  Rights Watch report about the Sharaf Prison in Baghdad’s Green Zone, as well as  the actions of the Iraqi security apparatus in the country’s secret prisons. The  report says that what is happening in Iraq represents a return to a totalitarian  regime, namely the same kind of regime that US troops came to Iraq in order to  liberate the Iraqi people from…so where is the international community regarding  what is happening in Iraq today?” He described al-Maliki as “an unjust tyrant”, asking “can we allow this tyrant to do whatever he likes?”
As for the  rapprochement that is taking place between Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh  al-Mutlaq and al-Maliki, the Iraqi Vice President said “I do not know if there  is a move towards alliance between the Iraqi National Dialogue Front that is led  by Saleh al-Mutlaq’s brother and al-Mailki, however I warn that whenever  al-Maliki feels weak and under pressure, he makes alliances and agreements,  however when he recovers his strength, he goes back on all agreements…this is  what happened with all of his alliances and agreements, including the Erbil  Agreement that brought him into power.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri  al-Maliki had recently announced that al-Mutlaq’s case is “political, not  judicial”, whilst for his part al-Mutlaq had moderated his rhetoric against  al-Maliki. In an interview with Al-Iraqiya TV, al-Mutlaq said “of course, there  was coolness and problems with the prime minister…but despite what happened I  don’t hold a grudge against him” adding “there were differences of opinion on  the way to govern the country, and brother al-Maliki is well aware that the  direction that the country is moving in must be corrected, and we must all work  together to do this.”