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IRAQ:Sunday: 107 Killed, 484 Wounded; Hashemi Condemned to Death

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Sunday: 107 Killed, 484 Wounded; Hashemi Condemned to Death

Updated at 3:59 p.m. EDT, Sept. 9, 2012

The deaths of at least 107 Iraqis in seemingly coordinated attacks eclipsed the expected but still shocking news that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has been sentenced to death by a Baghdad criminal court. Another 484 Iraqis were wounded in the violence, which occurred even deep into southern Iraq where such bloodshed is rare. One attack took place at a French consulate in Nasariya.

Although some of the attacks occurred earlier than the sentencing announcement, it cannot be ruled out that several of the later attacks were in response to it. Surges in violence have accompanied significant points in the Hashemi trial, and the evening attacks targeted Shi’ite neighborhoods in Baghdad. Hashemi is Sunni.

The fugitive vice president was sentenced to death in what many believe was a rigged court decision. He has denied all allegations and insisted the trial was part of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s intensified campaign to marginalize Sunnis. The case was tried in absentia after Hashemi fled Iraq, first to Kurdistan and later to Turkey. Both governments refused to hand Hashemi over.

Hashemi was first accused of financing terrorist activities in December, curiously, just as U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq. The first case, a bombing at the parliament building, turned out to be an al-Qaeda operation instead, but the Maliki administration found another 150 cases to blame on Hashemi.

Today, he and his son-in-law, Ahmed Qahtan, were found guilty for their involvement in the murders of a lawyer and security official. Over a lack of evidence, a judge acquitted Hashemi on a third murder charge. Defense lawyers re-iterated their belief that Maliki had manipulated court proceedings against his political rival and were promptly threatened by the court. If Hashemi returns to Iraq, he is legally allowed a re-trial.

Unintentionally supporting Hashemi’s counter-allegations, Maliki had tried to oust other senior Sunni politicians and ignited a political crisis that is yet unresolved. Moreover, at least three of Hashemi’s employees died while in detention, possibly tortured to death during interrogations. Hashemi has frequently accused the Iraqi government of extricating all confessions in the case through torture.

Meanwhile, violence took a heavy toll today. At least 107 people were killed and 484 more were wounded across the country, even in relatively peaceful southern cities.

Two car bombs left at least 18 dead and over 110 wounded in Amara, overwhelming hospitals and blood banks. The blasts occurred just outside a Shi’ite shrine and a marketplace.

In Baghdad, a bomb killed five people and wounded 38 more in Shula. Another bomb killed seven people and wounded 21 in Washash. Three people were killed and 14 more were wounded at a pet market in Hurriya. A blast in the Husseiniya neighborhood left two dead and eight wounded. One civilian was killed and four more were wounded in Narhwan. Also, someone tried to assassinate a Chaldean Christian leader.

Eleven people were killed and 20 more were wounded in a bombing attack in the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City. Police fired into the air to disperse crowds.

Three people were killed and 24 more were wounded during an explosion in Basra.

A car bomb that exploded outside a French consulate in Nasariya left one guard dead and four more wounded; the consul was not home at the time. A separate blast killed two civilians and wounded three more. Also, gunmen killed a civilian.

In Kirkuk, the bombings resumed. Car and motorcycle bombs killed seven people and wounded about 70, including one outside a police investigation office. Eight recruits were killed as they lined up for jobs as oil company police; at least 30 were wounded. The police chief was sacked.

Gunmen stormed a Dujail army base where they killed 11 soldiers and wounded seven more. A suicide bomber was also involved.

A car bomb killed four people and wounded at least 49 more in Tuz Khormato; it may have been targeting the mayor.

In greater Baquba, several blasts killed one soldier and wounded 17 more.

Two people were killed and 11 more were wounded in an explosion in Taji.

In Madaen, a blast killed three people and wounded 10 more.

Three soldiers and two gunmen were killed during clashes in Abu Ghraib.

In Mosul, gunmen killed a civilian. A bombing left seven wounded. Three policemen were wounded in a separate blast in Zummar. In Kojily, another blast left three more policemen wounded. A grenade wounded two civilians. A blast killed one policeman and wounded another in eastern Mosul.

Two people were killed and seven more were wounded in a Tal Afar bombing outside the Turkmen Front offices.

A blast in Ishaqi killed two policemen and wounded two more as they were evaluating an explosive device.

Three people were killed in Suleiman Pak during a blast.

In Riyadh, six soldiers were wounded in a bombing.

Three people were wounded in a blast in Hawija.

A sniper killed a soldier in Falluja.

A blast in Bab Sinjar left seven wounded.

Three people were wounded in a double bombing near an official’s home in Mandali.

Border guards killed a smuggler near the Syrian border along Nineveh province.

A blast targeting a regiment leader took place in Bartila, but no casualties were reported.

No casualties were reported in a Samarra bombing.

Tariq al-Hashemi, Sunni Vice President Of Iraq, Sentenced To Death In Absentia

September 9, 2012

BAGHDAD — A Baghdad court sentenced Iraq’s fugitive Sunni vice president to death Sunday after finding him guilty of masterminding the killings of a lawyer and a government security official.

Tariq al-Hashemi has denied the allegations. He fled the country after Iraq’s Shiite-led government leveled the terror charges against him in December.

The politically charged case sparked a crisis in Iraq’s government and has fueled Sunni Muslim and Kurdish resentment against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who critics say is monopolizing power.

The Baghdad courtroom was silent Sunday as the presiding judge read out the verdict convicting al-Hashemi and his son-in-law of organizing the murders of a Shiite security official and a lawyer who had refused to help the vice president’s allies in terror cases.

The court sentenced both men in absentia to death by hanging. They have 30 days to appeal the verdict.

The judge said al-Hashemi, who is in Turkey, was acquitted in a third case linked to the killing of another security officer, due to a lack of evidence.

The trial has fueled resentment among Iraq’s Sunni minority, and al-Hashemi himself has dismissed the charges against him as a political vendetta pursued by his longtime rival, al-Maliki.

Sunday’s final session of the trial opened a window on the politically charged nature of the case.

The defense team began its closing statement with a searing indictment of the judicial system, accusing it of losing its independence and siding with the Shiite-led government.

“From the beginning and through all procedures, it has become obvious that the Iraqi judicial system has been under political pressure,” attorney Muayad Obeid al-Ezzi, the head of the defense team, told the court.

The presiding judge interjected, warning that that the court would open legal proceedings against the defense team if it continued to heap accusations on the court or the judicial system.

Iraqi political analyst Hadi Jalo said the verdict against al-Hashemi will help the embattled prime minster.

“With this verdict al-Maliki will be stronger as it will strengthen his hands,” Jalo said. “The verdict, the most important since the trial of the Saddam Hussein who was hanged in 2006 with al-Maliki in office, will serve as a message to all that the government will not tolerate misdeeds”, he said.

Some contested that assessment, while others agreed, splitting along sectarian lines.

“I consider the whole trial and the verdict today as another farce to be added to the Iraqi judicial system since the Saddam Hussein trial,” said Abdullah al-Azami, a 45-year-old Sunni lawyer from Baghdad.

“We were hoping to see an independent judicial system after 2003, away from the influence of politics and politicians, but we have found out that this is impossible,” al-Azami said.

Khalid Saied, a Shiite pharmacist, differed.

“I strongly support this verdict, and there many other people in prisons who should receive the same (death) sentence,” said Saied, a 40-year old father of three. “I call upon the government to air all al-Hashemi’s crimes on TV, so that the entire world knows him,” he said.

The trial, which began last spring, featured testimony from the vice president’s former bodyguards, who said they were ordered, and then paid, to launch the attacks. Government forces who found weapons when they raided al-Hashemi’s house and that of his son-in-law also testified in the case, as did relatives of the victims.

A spokesman for al-Hashemi said the vice president would release a statement later Sunday.

Iraq’s Shiite-led government has accused al-Hashemi of playing a role in 150 bombings, assassinations and other attacks from 2005 to 2011 – most of which were allegedly carried out by his bodyguards and other employees. Most of the attacks the government claims al-Hashemi was behind targeted the vice president’s political foes, as well as government officials, security forces and Shiite pilgrims.

The charges against the vice president span the worst years of bloodshed that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, when sectarian attacks between Sunni and Shiite militants pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

Al-Hashemi has claimed that his bodyguards were likely tortured or otherwise coerced into testifying against him.

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