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Fugitive Iraqi Vice President Sentenced To Death In Absentia

Tariq al-Hashemi is thought to have taken refuge in neighboring Turkey.

Tariq al-Hashemi is thought to have taken refuge in neighboring Turkey.

An Iraqi court has sentenced fugitive Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi in absentia to death by hanging for running death squads.

Hashemi's secretary and his son-in-law, Ahmed Qahtan, were also sentenced to death in the case.

The trial, which concerned the killing of a lawyer and a brigadier-general, covered the first of about 150 charges against Hashemi and his bodyguards.

Hashemi, a Sunni, has said the cases against him are a politically motivated vendetta on the part of the ruling Shi'ite majority.

"I totally reject the verdict," Hashemi said from Turkish exile, adding a call for Iraqis to oppose what says is an attempt by Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to foment sectarianism.

Hashemi fled to Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, which declined to hand him over to the federal government, and then embarked on a tour that took him to Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

He has been in Turkey since April.

More than 100 people were killed across Iraq in the hours after the sentence was announced, although analysts said it was unlikely that the attacks in 13 cities -- including six districts in Baghdad -- were all timed to coincide with the afternoon verdict.

The death sentence capped a monthslong case against Hashemi, a longtime foe of Maliki's.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP