International alert issued for fugitive Iraqi vice president

Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi speaks to reporters during a press conference at Kuwait City's Bayan Palace, January 2008.

Story highlights

  • Vice President Tariq Al-Hashimi says charges against him are fabricated
  • al-Hashimi is wanted by Iraqi authorities on terrorism charges
  • Interpol's "red notice" to 190 member countries is not an international arrest warrant
  • But many member countries consider the alert to be a valid request for provisional arrest

Interpol on Tuesday issued a "red notice" for Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who is suspected of guiding and financing terrorist attacks in the country.

The red notice for al-Hashimi "represents a regional (and) international alert to all of Interpol's 190 member countries to seek their help in locating and arresting him, following the issue of a national arrest warrant by Iraq's Judicial Investigative Authority as part of an investigation in which security forces seized bombing materials and arrested individuals," the international police organization said in a statement.

Al-Hashimi has been living in a Turkish government guest house in Istanbul. In recent months, he has lived in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region but has also traveled to Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the invitation of those governments.

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He said Tuesday he should be presumed innocent.

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"Everybody knows that my case is a political case, from beginning to end, and that the charges against me are fabricated, and far from the truth," al-Hashimi said in a statement. "It is now well-known that there are many cases in Iraq, that the provisions were based on confessions extracted under duress."

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Reached by telephone Tuesday in Istanbul, one of al-Hashimi's aides, Mehmet Bulovali, told CNN, "This is a warning, not an arrest warrant."

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Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political leaders have squared off over the December arrest warrant for al-Hashimi, Iraq's top Sunni political figure. In a January interview with CNN, al-Hashimi accused Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, of pushing the country toward a deep sectarian divide.

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In February, Iraq's top judicial committee accused al-Hashimi's security detail of carrying out 150 attacks against security forces and civilians from 2005 to 2011. Al-Hashimi said the nine-judge council was under the control of the Shiite-dominated central government and has denied the charges, calling them "politically motivated."

Charges against al-Hashimi appear to be based on the purported confessions of three men, identified as the vice president's security guards. Iraqi state television aired video of the confessions in December, but CNN has not been able to verify the men's identities independently.

A red notice is not an international arrest warrant, but many Interpol member countries consider the alert to be a valid request for provisional arrest, the agency said. Interpol cannot demand that any member country arrest the subject of a red notice.

The police organization has been criticized in the past for allowing some nations to use such notices to target political opponents.

As an official guest of the Turkish government, al-Hashimi has been granted a meeting with Turkey's prime minister. In recent months, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has engaged in a war of words with al-Maliki.

Officials from the Turkish government were not immediately available for comment on whether Turkey would comply with the red notice.

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