The trial of Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi was delayed again on Thursday by a row over the venue, this time until May 15, a day after Turkey said it would not extradite the Sunni official.
Hashemi, whose trial was originally due to have started on May 3, and his bodyguards face around 150 charges related to running a death squad, and the vice president is now the subject of an Interpol red notice calling for his arrest.
He has dismissed the charges as politically motivated, and says he fears for his life after having left Iraq weeks ago.
“The trial was postponed until May 15,” said Muayad al-Izzi, one of Hashemi’s defence lawyers.
Izzi said he appealed for the case to be transferred to the federal supreme court on the grounds that it had jurisdiction over Iraq’s highest officials, and added that the investigation into Hashemi and his guards contained confessions obtained “by force”.
A court official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the new delay.
Judicial spokesman Abdelsattar Bayraqdar did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Neither Hashemi nor any of his accused bodyguards were present in court, an AFP journalist said.
Thursday’s hearing was to tackle the assassinations of two security officials and a lawyer.
The charges against Hashemi were first levelled in December after US troops completed their withdrawal, sparking a political crisis that saw the Sunni Arab vice president’s bloc boycott the cabinet and parliament over accusations Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was monopolising power.
Hashemi and his political allies have slammed the charges as targeting their Sunni Arab-backed Iraqiya bloc, which won the most seats in March 2010 parliamentary elections but was outmanoeuvred for the premiership by Maliki’s alliance.
After the initial charges were filed, the vice president fled to the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, whose authorities declined to hand him over to the central government.
They then allowed him to leave on a tour of the region that has taken him to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and now Turkey.
Turkish deputy prime minister Bekir Bozdag said on Wednesday that Ankara “will not extradite” Hashemi, whom he described as “someone whom we have supported since the very beginning.”
Bozdag’s comments came a day after Interpol issued its Red Notice for Hashemi’s arrest on suspicion of “guiding and financing terrorist attacks”.