Iraqis protest against vice president Hashemi

Around a thousand Iraqis demonstrated on the streets of Hilla, south of the capital Baghdad, on Saturday, demanding vice-president Tareq al-Hashemi be put on trial.

Demonstrators chanted against Hashemi and waved banners, stressing he be penalized on terrorism related charges. Hashemi denies any involvement in terrorist activities and has accused the government of inciting sectarian strife in Iraq.

The Sunni vice president was issued an arrest warrant on Monday on the request of Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who accuses the former of running a hit squad in Iraq.

The interior ministry revealed taped confessions made by those claiming to be part of Hashemi’s security, saying they were paid by his office to commit murderous acts, all which was aired on local media outlets, including state-run TV. Thirteen of the bodyguards have been arrested so far, and Hashemi has been banned from fleeing the country. He is in the Kurdish autonomous region of the country from where he cannot be arrested and has said he will not get a fair trial in Baghdad.

The latest developments highlight the fragility of the power struggle Iraq faces, as Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish parties deal with mending rifts a few years after violent sectarian clashes pushed the country to the brink of civil war. Such struggle has been amplified with U.S. troops’ withdrawal.

Senior Iraqi politicians are working on alleviating the tension as they fear re-igniting sectarian chaos.

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