News24

Fugitive Iraq VP says staff jailed

2012-02-20 18:50

Baghdad - Iraq's fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi said his bodyguards and other employees are being held in secret prisons and subjected to torture, in an interview broadcast on Monday.

Authorities have charged Hashemi, a Sunni, with running a death squad. He has been hiding out since December in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, where the authorities have so far declined to hand him over.

However, members of his bodyguard and employees of his office have been detained in connection with the case.

"All the arrested people from my bodyguards and the employees of my office are being held in secret prisons over which the ministry of justice has no authority, and confessions are being taken from them through torture," Hashemi said in the speech, which was broadcast on various Iraqi channels.

"We have pictures and evidence proving that the bodyguards were tortured, physically and psychologically," Hashemi said.

Alleged confessions by Hashemi's guards have been broadcast on television.

Hashemi also called on Iraqis "not to believe what the spokesperson of the Higher Judicial Council said regarding the accusations."

The Higher Judicial Council "became a partner in influencing public opinion" over a case that should be investigated in secret, he charged.

Hashemi said he wants "to appear in front of a fair judicial system, and in circumstances that can lead to the truth".

The judicial council's spokesperson, Abdelsattar Birakdar, has said "there are more than 150 crimes mentioned in the confessions of Hashemi's bodyguards" and called on Kurdistan authorities "to move to hand over the vice president".