An Iraqi court today found the nation's Sunni vice president guilty of running death squads against security forces and Shiites, and sentenced him to death in absentia. Tariq al-Hashemi, who has denied the charges, was not in court to hear the verdict. He fled the country after the terror charges were leveled against him in December, and is currently in Turkey. The Baghdad courtroom was silent as the judge announced the verdict convicting al-Hashemi and his son-in-law of the killings of a lawyer and a security official.
The charges against al-Hashemi have fueled simmering Sunni and Kurdish resentments against the Shiite prime minister. The trial featured testimony from the vice president's former bodyguards, who said they were ordered and paid to launch the attacks. Government forces who found weapons when they raided al-Hashemi's house and that of his son-in-law also testified in the case. Iraq's Shiite-led government has accused al-Hashemi of playing a role in 150 bombings, assassinations, and other attacks from 2005 to 2011—most of which were allegedly carried out by his bodyguards and other employees. Al-Hashemi has claimed that his bodyguards were likely tortured or otherwise coerced into testifying against him.