Interpol said Tuesday it had issued an international Red Notice for the arrest of Iraq’s fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi “on suspicion of guiding and financing terrorist attacks.”
“The Red Notice for al-Hashemi represents a regional and international alert to all of Interpol’s 190 member countries to seek their help in locating and arresting him,” the Lyon-based international police agency said, according to AFP.
“Interpol cannot demand that any member country arrest the subject of a red notice, and an individual wanted for arrest should be considered innocent until proven guilty,” the statement said.
On Friday, Hashemi, accused of running a death squad, said that he has no faith in the Iraqi justice system and fears for his life.
“My life in Baghdad (is) in high risk,” the key Sunni Arab leader told journalists in Istanbul, where he has been based more than a month.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s decision to dissolve the vice president’s guard unit had increased the threat level, said Hashemi, who is being tried in absentia in a Baghdad court.
“I have great...mistrust about the standard of justice,” he explained.
He has challenged the legitimacy of the trial in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI), claiming the federal court should have handled the case because he is a sitting vice president.
“This in itself is a straightforward violation of the constitution,” he said.
Hashemi and several bodyguards are charged with killing six judges and senior officials, including a lawyer and the director general of the security ministry.
Authorities issued an arrest warrant for Hashemi in December after the U.S. completed its pullout and he first sought refuge with Iraqi Kurds.
The autonomous population refused to hand him over to Baghdad and he then fled to Turkey, after stops in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Rejecting claims that he was a “fugitive”, Hashemi said he would soon be back in Arbil, the capital of Kurdistan in northern Iraq.
“My colleagues in Iraq suggested I should postpone (the) trip (back to Arbil) for a few days, to provide more convenience to the intensive dialogue going on presently in Baghdad,” he said, an apparent hint that a political deal could be reached to ease his return.
Should the trial in absentia continue, Hashemi said he would likely be sentenced to death and that he would then call on the international community “to render help as quick as possible.”
Hashemi’s trial began Thursday, but was delayed until May 10. His lawyers want the case to be heard by a special court and not by the CCCI.
Hashemi supporters have said they fear the trial will otherwise be politicized.
The hearing, attended by representatives of the United Nations and human rights groups, coincided with several bombing and shooting incidents elsewhere in Baghdad in which one soldier was killed and several people were wounded, according to Reuters.
The decision to charge Hashemi sparked a political crisis that saw the vice president’s bloc boycott cabinet and parliament over accusations al-Maliki, a Shiite, was monopolizing power.
After years of sectarian bloodshed, Iraqis are not overly shocked that some of their officials might have links to terrorism. But Hashemi’s trial has been viewed with skepticism among many Sunnis and Shiites who question why the vice president was singled out, according to The Associated Press.
Many are eagerly awaiting the chance to see the evidence brought against Hashemi. Authorities say that some bodyguards have confessed to the terror plots that targeted police officers, government officials and judges with assassination.
Hashemi meanwhile says that bodyguards were tortured to extract confessions, and two died under torture -- accusations that the government denies.