Iraq

Witnesses say Iraqi vice president masterminded killings

tariq hashmi Iraqi fugitive Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi has been once again accused of masterminding assassinations during his trial in the capital Baghdad. The trial opened in his absence on Tuesday. Hashemi is currently in Turkey after he was accused of running a death squad in December. The hearing was over the murders of two security officials and a lawyer. Witnesses gave testimony accusing the vice president of masterminding the killings. “He asked me to plant a car bomb near Buratha mosque, and I carried out the operation,” Ahmed Shawqi, identified by court officials as one of Hashemi’s bodyguards, told the court. “The orders for the operations either came from him personally, or from his brother-in-law Ahmed Qahtan,” he added. “I was the leader of the operation that targeted Ghalib al-Assadi because he was causing problems for Tariq al-Hashemi, and he wanted to eliminate him,” he said, referring to one of the security officials killed. A judicial spokesman said Shawqi is among several dozen of Hashemi’s bodyguards who along with the vice president face a total of around 150 charges. Hashemi, however, denied the charges, describing them as politically-motivated. Interpol is seeking Hashemi’s arrest on murder charges at the Iraqi government’s request. The next hearing in the trial was set for May 20.

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