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Iraq VP refuses to return to Baghdad to stand trial

Vice president of Iraq Tariq al-Hashemi [JURIST news archive] said Sunday that he will not return to Baghdad to stand trial on charges of inciting violence in the country. Al-Hashemi denies the charges [Al Jazeera video] and has moved to the Kurdish region of northern Iraq to avoid appearing at trial, which he claims will be biased against him. Al-Hashemi's statement comes in response to a warrant issued last week for his arrest [Reuters report] by Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic]. Al-Maliki alleges that Al-Hashemi and his security forces carried out secret assassinations of political enemies. On Friday, protesters took to the streets in support of Hashemi [Al Arabiya report], many alleging that the charges against him are politically motivated. The sectarian violence was ignited just days after the last US troops left Iraq, and threatens to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

On Sunday US Vice President Joe Biden [official website] spoke with Maliki [AP report], expressing his condolences for last week's violence and discussing the political climate. The US ended it's 9-year Iraq War [JURIST feature] earlier this month when the government officially declared the war at an end and withdrew its remaining troops from the country. The US also handed over the last detainee [JURIST report] in Iraq, Ali Mussa Daqduq, to Iraqi authorities as part of the end of the war. US President Barack Obama [official website] had considered trying Daqduq on US soil [JURIST report], but was unable to come to an agreement with Iraqi officials and so transferred Daqduq to Iraq officials. Sectarian conflict arose almost immediately following the withdrawal of US troops, culminating in the last week's violence.

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