Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Iraq issues an arrest warrant for Vice President al-Hashemi

An Iraqi interior ministry official has said that the government has issued an arrest warrant – under anti-terrorism laws – for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. This has caused many to fear the collapse of the newly formed government and an increase in sectarian conflicts.

The news follows the arrest of al-Hashemi's bodyguards, who reportedly accused him of having ties with terrorist groups. The main Sunni political alliance has said it is going to boycott the cabinet.

The Al-Iraqiya party, which represents most of Iraq's Sunni Arab community, had already withdrawn from parliament, on the grounds that the Shi'a Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is monopolising power. Al-Hashemi has been a forthright critic of al-Maliki.

Iraq President Jalal Talabani's office issued a statement saying he was "surprised" by the issue of the warrant. The statement went on to say: "Making hasty decisions and announcing them in the media will complicate the political solutions needed in this delicate stage in Iraq's history.” These latest developments come as US troops prepare to withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year.

On Monday 19th December, Iraq's television broadcast a confession by the suspected terrorist linked to Hashemi, who said they had been paid by the vice president's office to carry out attacks on security officials and politicians.

One of the suspected terrorists said he had been given £2,000 by Hashemi himself. The names of the men have not been disclosed. Speaking about the situation a senior interior ministry official Maj Gen Kamal Hussein said: "According to article four of the anti-terrorism law, an arrest warrant has been issued against Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi and it is signed by five judges."

Al-Hashemi is banned from leaving the country, but has reportedly travelled to the semi-autonomous northern Kurdistan on Sunday 18th December. The warrant was drawn-up a day before, but the process was delayed as attempts were made to resolved the situation and persuade the Sunni bloc to abandoned its planned boycott.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, AFP

For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

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