Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that Ankara will not extradite Iraq's fugitive Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi to face a death sentence in Baghdad.
"I'll say it very clearly. We will be willing to host Mr. Hashimi for as long as he wants and we will not hand him over," Erdogan said.
An Iraqi court on September 9 sentenced Hashimi to be hanged after finding him guilty of forming death squads to kill his opponents.
Iraqi authorities are demanding he be extradited by Turkey.
Erdogan said the "charges against [Hashimi] should not lead to a death sentence. Indeed, Hashimi has lost many members of his family in Iraq. He definitely cannot be a part of such actions."
Hashimi has claimed the charges and death sentence are politically motivated.
He fled in December 2011 to Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, which declined to hand him over to the federal government. Hashimi later embarked on a tour that took him to Qatar and Saudi Arabia before eventually reaching Turkey.
Hashimi, who is a Sunni Muslim and member of the secular Sunni-backed Al-Iraqiyah bloc, says the case against him also is retaliation from members of the Shi'ite-majority government.
He called on Iraqis to refrain from what he called Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's attempts to stir up sectarianism.
"Sons of my beloved nation, do not allow Maliki and those who stand behind him to make this a sectarian issue," Hashimi said.
"Respond to his conspiracy and intimidation in quiet, civilized ways that show your feeling for responsibility and self-control. Whoever likes Hashimi and his goals shall not harm a citizen or foreigner on Iraqi soil."
On September 10, the U.S. expressed concern about the verdict against Hashimi.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland cited concerns “about the potential for an increase in unhelpful rhetoric and tension on all sides.”
She also called on all of Iraq's leaders “to continue to try to resolve their disputes consistent with the rule of law."