Iraq's fugitive Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi speaks during a press conference in Ankara, Turkey, Sept. 10, 2012. Tariq al-Hashemi said here Monday at a press conference that he does not recognize the ruling of an Iraqi court which sentenced him to death in absentia on charges of plotting terrorist attacks in the country. (Xinhua/Anatolia News Agency)
ANKARA, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Turkey said it would not turn over Iraq's fugitive Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi to the Iraqi authorities after a court ruled to sentence him to death, a Turkish government official told Xinhua Monday.
The official also said his country welcomes him to stay as long as he likes in the country.
An Iraqi court on Sunday sentenced him to death by hanging in absentia on charges of plotting terrorist attacks in the country.
The official, who asked not to be named, said that Turkish position has been clear from the start, and Ankara believes Hashemi would not get a fair trial in Baghdad under the heavy influence of Shiite-dominated government.
In the meantime, the Iraq's fugitive Sunni vice president said here at a press conference that the ruling of Iraqi court is null and void in his own view, stressing that the court decision is politically motivated.
Hashemi said he is ready to be tried in a fair court but not in Iraqi courts, which he claimed are under the influence of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
"It is an unjust decision. I am innocent and all charges were unfairly directed against me," he said.
Hashemi said the court rendered its decision without hearing his defense.
The Iraqi politician fled the country earlier this year after the authorities sought his arrest in December. His case sparked a political crisis in the country's power-sharing government among Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish political blocs.
Hashemi accused Maliki of conducting a political witch-hunt against Sunni opponents but the government said it was strictly a judicial case.
Hashemi has been in Turkey since April. In May, Interpol issued a red notice for the Sunni politician at the request of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. Turkish government has given Hashemi a residence permit in July after his 90-day visa expired.
Turkish officials say that the Iraqi vice president cannot be extradited to Iraq because the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), for which Turkey is a signatory, forbids handing over any suspect to another country which has capital punishment.
Turkish support for Hashemi is expected to further strain the ties between the two neighbors which are already at odds over oil deals.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Maliki have publicly traded accusations several times this year with Erdogan accusing Maliki of fanning sectarian divisions in Iraq. In response Maliki accused Turkey for meddling in Iraqi domestic affairs.