|Site of a car bomb attack in Basra in the south(AP)|
The courtroom at Baghdad's criminal court was silent Sunday as the presiding judge read out the verdict. It convicted al-Hashemi and his son-in-law, Ahmed Qahtan, of organizing the murders of a Shiite security official and a lawyer who had refused to help the vice president's allies in terror cases. The two defendants were acquitted in a third case of the killing of a security officer due to a lack of evidence.The court sentenced both men in absentia to death by hanging.
Iraq's fugitive Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashemi, was sentenced Sunday to death by hanging on charges he masterminded death squads against rivals in a terror trial that has fueled sectarian tensions in the country. The verdict coincided with an onslaught of bombings and shootings in 13 cities across Iraq, killing at least 92 people in one of the deadliest days this year. There are, however, no indications that there was a connection between the two.
Al-Hashemi fled to Turkey in the months after the Shiite-led government accused him of playing a role in 150 bombings, assassinations and other attacks from 2005 to 2011 — years in which the country was mired in retaliatory sectarian violence that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime. Most of the attacks were allegedly carried out by al-Hashemi's bodyguards and other employees, and largely targeted government officials, security forces and Shiite pilgrims.
The vice president declined to immediately comment on the verdict after meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara. He said he would "tackle this issue in a statement" in coming hours.
The politically charged case — which was announced the day after U.S. troops withdrew from the country last December — sparked a government crisis and fueled Sunni Muslim and Kurdish resentment against al-Maliki, whom critics say is monopolizing power.
The countrywide attacks began before dawn, with gunmen killing soldiers at an army post in the central Iraqi city of Dujail. A few hours later, a car exploded in a lot where police recruits waiting in line to apply for jobs outside Kirkuk in the country's north. Both Dujail and Kirkuk are former insurgent strongholds. Over the day, at least 92 people were killed and more than 360 wounded in at least 21 separate bombings and shootings, according to reports from police and hospital officials. No group immediately claimed responsibility, but Iraq's Interior Ministry blamed al-Qaida in Iraq.The carnage stretched into the country's south, where bombs stuck to two parked cars exploded in the Shiite-dominated city of Nasiriyah, 320 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Baghdad. The blasts were near the French consulate and a local hotel in the city, although the consulate did not appear to be a target of the attack. A string of smaller attacks Sunday also struck nine other cities. It was one of the worst outbreaks of violence in Iraq in 2012, although the single deadliest day was July 23, which saw at least 115 people killed — the most in more than two years.