Iraq's Shiite-led central government wants to try Hashemi -- one of the country's top Sunni politicians -- on charges of running death squads in a case that raised fears of an increase in sectarian tension after US troops withdrew from Iraq in December.
Hashemi said in an interview with Turkey's television station CNN Türk that he knows Turks are sympathetic and understand his situation, which he described as “dire.” He said that despite some of the limitations in Turkey's capacity to help, he is delighted and pleased to have Turkish support. He noted that he hopes Turks will continue to support him in his political situation.
The Iraqi central government issued an arrest warrant for Hashemi on the eve of the US withdrawal, prompting a political crisis, with Hashemi's Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc announcing a boycott of parliament and the Shiite-led cabinet, and raised fears of a renewal of the sectarian violence that killed tens of thousands of people between 2006 and 2007.
The crisis has abated somewhat in recent weeks, as most members of the Iraqiya bloc have decided to lift the boycott, but Hashemi has remained holed up in the autonomous Kurdish zone in the north of the country.
He says he cannot receive a fair trial in Baghdad and has asked to be tried in Kirkuk, a city divided between Sunni Arabs and Kurds. The government says the case is purely criminal, the prosecution is independent and the government cannot intervene. A Baghdad judiciary panel rejected moving the case to Kirkuk and set a trial for May in Baghdad. Iraq's Interior Ministry said last week that it has demanded Kurdish authorities arrest him.
The crisis was followed by a wave of attacks in December, January and February on Shiite neighborhoods, including a suicide bombing on a Shiite funeral procession that killed 31 in Baghdad, an attack on Shiite pilgrims that left 53 dead in Basra and a string of attacks across Iraq that killed at least 55.
Days after the American military left, a wave of bombs targeting Shiites on Dec. 22 killed at least 69 people. That happened twice more over the following three weeks, killing 78 and 53, respectively.
Iraq's vice president said he hopes Iraq will completely restore its stability and establish cooperation among Iraq's different political factions. “This is what Turkey also wants,” Hashemi added. He stressed that Turkey's support of Hashemi is not “futile” and that Turkey would also support Nouri al-Maliki if there is any injustice towards the Iraqi prime minister.
“Support for Hashemi is not because Hashemi is a Sunni,” the vice president said, noting that Turkish leaders understand the situation he is in and he can easily talk to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu whenever he wants.
Hashemi said it is his legitimate right to be tried in Kirkuk and he will not leave the Kurdish region for Baghdad. He indicated that he is not currently planning to travel abroad, even to Turkey, and acknowledged one of the first foreign officials he spoke with following the crisis last December was Davutoğlu, who urged him to stay in Iraq.
Hashemi said the Kurds embraced him because they do not tolerate injustice and that they fear that they could be the next target of the central government in Baghdad if they do not act to resolve the injustice.
Maliki is planning to organize a political conference soon, and Hashemi says there are important matters that need to be resolved before the conference, aimed at reconciling Iraq's rival groups, is held.
Hashemi said it is still not clear whether or not they will send delegates to Baghdad in the case the venue of the national conference is in Baghdad. He said the authorities have jailed his guards, while others have fled government prosecution. Hashemi added that if the government will provide the necessary security for himself and his delegates, his participation in the national conference may be possible.
Speaking with regards to Turkish-Iraqi relations in the face of the latest quarrels between Erdoğan and Maliki, Hashemi said the current situation is not something he wants to see. He said Erdoğan's anger towards Maliki stems from the Turkish prime minister's awareness of Hashemi's situation. He indicated he had told Erdoğan about how Maliki had jailed Hashemi's guards and deployed tanks in front of his house.
Erdoğan and Maliki have exchanged harsh words over the past few months with regards to the political crisis that has escalated violence in Turkey's southern neighbor, which is also one of its largest partners in trade. Erdoğan accused Maliki of augmenting his power in Baghdad at the expense of isolating Sunni politicians and igniting civil strife that could plunge the war-torn country into a new cycle of violence. Maliki harshly slammed Erdoğan for remarks he says represent interference in Iraq's domestic affairs. Maliki claims that Erdoğan is supporting Sunnis in Iraq and that Turkey's position could have “tragic consequences” for Iraq.