Interpol said Tuesday it had issued an international Red Notice for the arrest of Iraq’s fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on suspicion of “guiding and financing terrorist attacks”.
Hashemi, who is being tried in absentia in Baghdad accused of running a death squad, insisted in a statement Tuesday he was not above the law and was ready to appear in court if his security and a fair trial could be guaranteed.
“The Red Notice for al-Hashemi represents a regional and international alert to all of Interpol’s 190 member countries to seek their help in locating and arresting him,” the Lyon-based international police agency said.
Interpol said the notice, its highest possible alert, was issued following an Iraqi warrant made “as part of an investigation in which security forces seized bombing materials and arrested individuals”.
Hashemi, who was last known to be in Istanbul, and his bodyguards face around 150 charges, including the killing of six judges and other senior officials, according to an Iraqi judicial spokesman. He has challenged the legitimacy of the trial and said his life is at risk in Baghdad.
The decision to charge the key Sunni Arab leader sparked a political crisis that saw the vice president’s bloc boycott cabinet and parliament over accusations Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, was monopolising power.
Hashemi said in a statement posted on his website early Tuesday that he was awaiting a “political solution” to the standoff.
“I respect the (Iraqi) judiciary and I am not above the law,” he said.
“If a fair trial is possible, not politicised, and there are security guarantees and guarantees of my constitutional rights, I will stand before any court, even if it is in Baghdad because I am sure of my innocence.”
Hashemi said he was planning to return to Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, on Tuesday but decided to delay his trip after appeals by unnamed political leaders.
Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble said in a statement that the Red Notice would “significantly restrict” Hashemi’s ability to travel and cross international borders.
“This case also clearly demonstrates the commitment of Iraqi authorities to work with the world police community via Interpol to apprehend individuals facing serious charges,” he said.
A Red Notice is not an internationally binding arrest warrant but many of Interpol’s members consider it a valid request, especially if they have an extradition treaty with the requesting country.
Iraqi authorities issued an arrest warrant for Hashemi in December after the US completed its pullout and he first sought refuge with Iraqi Kurds who refused to hand him over. He then fled to Turkey, after stops in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
“My life in Baghdad (is) in high risk,” he told journalists Friday in Istanbul, where he had been based for more than a month.
He has challenged the legitimacy of the trial in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, claiming the federal court should have handled the case because he is a sitting vice president.
Hashemi’s trial began Thursday, but was delayed until May 10.