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Iraq's Sunni vice president sentenced to death

In this Friday, Dec. 23, 2011 file photo, Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi speaks during an interview with the Associated Press near Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles (260 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq.

September 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
An Iraqi court found the nation's Sunni vice president guilty of running death squads against security forces and Shiites.

Tariq al-Hashemi now faces the death penalty.

Iraq's Shiite-led government announced the charges against al-Hashemi in December as the last U.S. troops were withdrawing from the country. He has been in been in exile since then.

Under Iraqi law, he could receive a retrial if he returns to the country to face the charges.

The trial has fueled resentment among Iraq's Sunni minority, and al-Hashemi himself has dismissed the charges against him as a political vendetta pursued by his longtime rival, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The trial, which began last spring, featured testimony from the vice president's former bodyguards, who said they were ordered, and then paid, to launch the attacks. Government forces who found weapons when they raided the homes of al-Hashemi and of his son-in-law also testified in the case, as did relatives of the victims.

Al-Hashemi has claimed that his bodyguards were likely tortured or otherwise coerced into testifying against him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.