Turkey Refuses to Extradite Iraqi Vice President
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister on Wednesday announced that the country would not extradite Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, which has been on the run for a few months after the government in Baghdad accused him of implication in terror activity. Officially, al-Hashemi maintained that he was visiting the Gulf countries, denying that he was on hiding.
Interpol issued a “red bulletin” in the name of al-Hashemi following the request of Baghdad. Diplomatic sources said that this red bulletin did not mean that al-Hashemi was under some sort of international arrest warrant. Red bulletins are based on national arrest warrants and are accepted as long as they do not break the Interpol regulations.
Turkish Deputy PM said that Turkey could not extradite someone they supported. He emphasized that Turkey supports al-Hashemi and that it would continue to do so. Al-Hashemi is still the Vice-President of Iraq and he enjoys diplomatic immunity. He added he had no knowledge whether this situation would be subjected to reevaluation in the next period.
The official said that the Vice President was in Turkey to be treated of his health problems, and reminded that Turkey had its own requests for people in Iraq which had staged acts of terror on Turkish territory, and that the Iraqi government has not complied with these requests.
Al-Hashemi is being tried in absentia under the accusation of terrorism and guiding and financing death squads that targeted government officials and Shiite pilgrims. The trial was postponed until after May 10, as al-Hashemi’s lawyer demanded that a parliament special court be established to hear the case.
Tariq al-Hashemi has denied all charges and pledged that he would not return to his country as long as he is under this charge, which he called politically motivated. The Vice President is member of the Sunni party which has won most of the seats in the parliament in the 2010 elections.
The Iraqi national government is dominated by Shiite politicians and a power for sectarian influence is being waged between Sunni and Shiite. The sectarian-motivated power struggle lies at the heart of the decision of the Vice President to seek refuge in Sunni-dominated countries.
Since he was charged with terrorist activity, al-Hashemi sought refuge first in the autonomous northern province of Iraqi Kurdistan, where he was sheltered in spite of the federal pressure from Baghdad. In Kurdistan, al-Hashemi took advantage of the oil dispute between Arbil and Baghdad, as the capital was accusing Kurds of stopping the oil production.
Iraqi Kurdistan and the government in Baghdad have an agreement by which Kurdistan delivers all the oil it produces to the government and Baghdad sells the oil and gives Kurdistan half of the revenue. The Iraqi government has accused Arbil of smuggling oil through Turkey without observing the national agreement.
When his staying in Kurdistan could no longer be prolonged without endangering bilateral relations, al-Hashemi fled to Doha, Qatar, and then to Saudi Arabia. Both countries refused to heed to Iraqi demand to surrender him.
Last month, Iraqi government wanted to make a glamorous comeback on the international scene, and for that purpose hosted a summit of the Arab League, which was dominated by the Syrian dispute and also by the sectarian divide among the Arab countries, as most of the Sunni monarchies in the Gulf sent lower-level bureaucrats to attend the meeting in Baghdad, thus undermining the efforts of the Shiite-dominated government.
While in the Saudi Arabia, al-Hashemi said, without presenting however any hard evidence to support his claim, that the Iraqi premier Nouri al-Maliki had opened the Iraqi air space to Iranian aviation which smuggled weapons in embattled Syria.
Even though no evidence was presented, al-Hashemi’s words were enough for the Saudi media to say that the Iraqi government cannot be trusted, because it was supported by the Iranian regime.
Tariq al-Hashemi was the highest-ranking Sunni official in the Shiite-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki. His version of the facts attempts to make believe that the entire ordeal he is going through is caused by the hatred of the premier, which is set to revenge on him.
Turkish newspaper Todayszaman on May 2, speaking about the possibility at the time that Turkey may harbor al-Hashemi, laid out the legal framework which would make Turkish decision perfectly legal.
Thus, according to Zaman, Turkey and Iraq had an agreement signed on September 19, 1989, which entered into effect in 1995, whose Article 43 states that the two states agree to extradite suspects against whom the other state has launched judicial provisions.
Article 47 of the agreement says that the request can be turned down if the motif of the state to prosecute someone is related to race, religion or political opinion. Since Turkey believes that behind the al-Hashemi case lies a religion-motivated prosecution, it can perfectly invoke this article to motivate its decision.
Tariq al-Hashemi had demanded that the trial be moved in Kirkuk, a city which is divided between Sunni Arabs and Kurds, but his request was rejected by the government which said the case was purely criminal and that the government could not intervene in it. A judicial panel rejected the plea to move the case to Kirkuk and set the starting date of the case for May 3.11