Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi vigorously denied the terrorism charges leveled against him yesterday, saying that Shiite-led security personnel had forced false confessions out of his personal guards. "I swear by God I didn’t do this disobedience against Iraqi blood, and I would never do this," he said in a televised news conference from the Kurdish capital of Erbil. "The goal is clear, it is not more than political slander."
Hashemi’s presence in Kurdistan, Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern region, is significant, because Nouri al-Maliki’s security forces will have a hard time apprehending him there, the New York Times observes. Hashemi requested the case be transferred to Kurdistan, where he said he could receive a fair trial; he vowed not to return to Baghdad. Before Hashemi’s speech, Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi issued a statement saying the confessions Hashemi’s guards gave on TV yesterday had a "sectarian" tone—a notable move given that Nujaifi has until now largely avoided commenting on the Shiite-Sunni strife. (Read more Tariq al Hashemi stories.)