Turkey to protect Iraqi fugitive VP ‘as a guest’

Turkey to protect Iraqi fugitive VP ‘as a guest’

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey to protect Iraqi fugitive VP ‘as a guest’

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (R) speaks with Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi before their meeting in Ankara on April 24. AFP photo

Turkey said it had no intention of interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs, but would not handover fugitive Vice President Tariq al–Hashemi to Baghdad.

The Iraqi vice president is a guest in Turkey under the protection of Turkish officials, as Turkey is a country known for its hospitality, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said yesterday. The minister stressed that Turkey was sensitive to guests it hosts, even if Interpol issued a red notice against a certain guest. “Al-Hashemi is currently a guest in Turkey. We will protect our guest and treat him well, as a guest should be,” Atalay told reporters in Kırıkkale.

Interpol issued a red notice against al-Hashemi earlier this week, over his trial in absentia in Baghdad on charges of terrorism and guiding and financing death squads which targeted government officials and Shiite pilgrims. The trial was initially postponed to May 10 after lawyers for al-Hashemi appealed for parliament to create a special court to hear the case. The trial was postponed once again yesterday, this time until May 15.

Selçuk Ünal, spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry, said yesterday that the red notice from Interpol was not an order for arrest. Ünal denied reports that Iraq had asked Turkey for the extradition of al-Hashemi. The Iraqi politician had not asked Turkey for political asylum either, the spokesperson said.

Turkey did not intervene in the internal affairs of Iraq, Ünal said.

“Turkey has no secret agenda or secondary agenda [for Iraq],” he said. As Ankara places importance on the stability of Iraq, Turkey would keep up discussions with all parties, particularly the Iraqi government, Ünal said. Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki criticized Turkey yesterday for remarks he said did not show “mutual respect”, in the latest bout of a weeks-long spat between the two neighbors. Maliki’s comments came as Turkey said it would not extradite al-Hashemi. “We do not have any problems with Turkey,” Maliki told NRT, a Kurdish satellite channel, according to a statement issued by his office.

Al-Hashemi trial delayed

“We do not want to antagonize Turkey, or Iran, or America, or Saudi Arabia, or any other country, but what happened and the remarks issued by Turkey do not show mutual respect.” His remarks come after Iraq and Turkey last month summoned each other’s ambassadors to express their displeasure over a worsening row.

At the time, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Maliki, a Shiite, of stoking sectarian tensions between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, and of monopolizing power. Maliki fired back, saying such comments “will damage Turkey’s interests and makes it a hostile state for all.” The Iraqi premier’s latest comments came as Turkish deputy prime minister Bekir Bozdag said on May 8 that Ankara would not extradite Hashemi, whose trial in Baghdad is due to begin on May 15 after two delays.

An Iraqi court postponed the terror trial against the country’s fugitive vice president for a second time yesterday, with his lawyers demanding a special tribunal to hear the case that he says was brought by political enemies. Tariq al-Hashemi’s legal team said it is still waiting to hear whether Iraq’s Supreme Court will agree to move the trial from Baghdad’s criminal court to a new court appointed by parliament. Al-Hashemi lawyer Muayad Obeid al-Ezzi said the next court hearing is May 15.