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Immunity Lifted Of Iraqi Deputy Sought For Murders

Flowers in Iraq's parliament on the seat of a deputy killed in a bomb attack during a special session in Baghdad in April 2007
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Iraqi lawmakers have lifted the immunity of a Sunni legislator, paving the way for his arrest on charges of orchestrating a series of sectarian murders and attacks, including a suicide bombing in parliament.

Lawmaker Muhammad al-Dayni has been accused by the Shi'ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of ordering car bombings, mortar attacks, and mass murders during the height of the violence unleashed by the 2003 U.S. invasion.

"The vote passed with a majority," said an official in the office of acting parliament speaker Khalid al-Attiya. "The reason was that there are criminal charges against the deputy and we decided to give the Iraqi judiciary room to investigate."

Al-Dayni, a member of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, has said that the allegations were false and politically motivated.

Earlier in the day, Iraqi authorities ordered an Iraqi Airways flight to Jordan, on which he was a passenger, to turn around and return. The aircraft had already entered Jordanian airspace, al-Dayni told Reuters.

"What about the other passengers? What did they do to deserve this?" al-Dayni said when contacted after he arrived back at Baghdad airport.

The charges against al-Dayni have strained relations between the Shi'ite-led government and Sunni blocs, who complain that other parliament members are just as tainted by suspicions of involvement in sectarian crimes but have not been investigated.

Military spokesman Qasim al-Musawi on February 22 showed a news conference what he said were videotaped confessions of two bodyguards, including one of al-Dayni's nephews, recounting kidnappings, mortar attacks and car bombings ordered by al-Dayni.

Topping the list was a suicide bombing in 2007 that killed eight people in parliament, in the heart of the heavily fortified and, at the time, U.S.-protected Green Zone.

The bodyguards said al-Dayni had ordered 100 people buried alive in revenge for the deaths of 10 associates.