Qatar refuses to return Iraqi vice-president to Iraq to face charges




Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi arrived in Qatar from the KRG the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq. He fled to the area in December after the Maliki government issued a warrant for his arrest on charges that he was involved with death squads that targeted Shias.

The Maliki government asked Qatar to send Hashemi back to Iraq to face the charges. The Qatari minister for foreign affairs said:"Diplomatic norms and the post of Hashemi prevent Qatar from doing such a thing," "Mr Hashemi came in his capacity as a vice president and he continues to occupy this post, and has not been sentenced or stripped of his title," Given that Hashemi is accused of running death squads it is rather strange that the Maliki government has not yet stripped him of his vice-presidency! An Iraqi official said that the Qatari decision to host Hashemi was unacceptable.

Hashemi himself disputed Baghdad's position. Hashemi said that he enjoys constitutional immunity and has not been convicted of anything as yet. The same claim of immunity was used by Kurdistan authorities when they refused to turn Hashemi over to Baghdad.

Hashemi has denied his guilt and complains that the charges are politically motivated. Certainly the charges increase the tension between Shia and Sunni groups since the targets of the alleged Hashemi death squads were Shia. Critics complain that Maliki is trying to consolidate his power.

The Maliki government is not only facing resistance from Kurdistan over its moves but now relations with Qatar have gone sour as well. Kurdistan has stopped all exports of oil over a feud with Baghdad over division of oil revenues and contracts signed by Kurdistan with foreign oil companies. For much more see this article.

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