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Iraq's fugitive VP convicted as attacks kill 92

By Lara Jakes

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Sept. 9 2012 2:13 p.m. MDT

The court sentenced both men in absentia to death by hanging. They have 30 days to appeal the verdict and could win a retrial if they return to Iraq to face the charges. Al-Hashemi — who has been in office since 2006 — is on Interpol's most-wanted list, but Turkey has shown no interest in sending the vice president back to Baghdad.

The defense team began its closing statement with a searing indictment of Iraq's justice system, accusing it of showing no independence and siding with the Shiite-led government.

"From the beginning and through all procedures it has become obvious that the Iraqi judicial system has been under political pressure," attorney Muayad Obeid al-Ezzi, the head of the defense team, told the court.

The presiding judge immediately interjected, warning that that the court would open legal proceedings against the defense team if it continued to heap accusations on the court or the legal system.

Reaction to the verdict was largely along sectarian lines on the streets of Baghdad.

Sunni lawyer Abdullah al-Azami called the trial "another farce to be added to the Iraqi judicial system."

Shiite pharmacist Khalid Saied, meanwhile, said he supported the verdict and hoped the government would broadcast all the evidence against al-Hashemi "so that the entire world knows him."

Sunday's violence came amid fears that the insurgency has gained new strength after suffering heavy setbacks in U.S. and Iraqi offensives. Four of the attacks targeted Kirkuk, where city police commander Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir blamed the violence on al-Qaida.

The carnage stretched into the country's south, where bombs stuck to two parked cars exploded in the Shiite-dominated city of Nasiriyah, 320 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Baghdad. The blasts were near the French consulate and a local hotel in the city, although the consulate did not appear to be a target of the attack.

Local deputy health director Dr. Adnan al-Musharifawi said two people were killed and three were wounded at the hotel, and one Iraqi policeman was wounded at the consulate. Al-Musharifawi said no French diplomats were among the casualties. In Paris, France's Foreign Ministry said it "condemns with the greatest severity" the wave of attacks.

A string of smaller attacks Sunday also struck nine other cities. It was one of the worst outbreaks of violence in Iraq in 2012, although the single deadliest day was July 23, which saw at least 115 people killed — the most in more than two years.

Associated Press Writers Sinan Salaheddin and Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Yahya Barzanji in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, contributed to this report. Follow Lara Jakes on Twitter at www.twitter.com/larajakesAP

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