Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraq's fugitive vice president, says two of his bodyguards have been tortured and killed by Iraqi security officials. A statement he issued late Tuesday said that the bodyguards were killed in an interrogation last month, before the Arab summit in Baghdad.
"The security officials did not announce the killings at the time, fearing that this news might affect the summit," Hashemi's statement said, according to the Associated Press.
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If Hashemi's allegations are correct, then at least three of his bodyguards would have died in March. On March 15, bodyguard Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi died in detention. Iraqi officials said that Batawi suffered kidney failure, but pictures of his body showed multiple bruises, BBC News reported. Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council, however, denied allegations about the two more recent deaths.
"After checking with the panel in charge of the investigation, we are sure that there is no torture nor any new death apart from the case of Batawi," spokesman Abdul Sattar Bayrkdar told the Associated Press.
At the end of March, Human Rights Watch asked Iraq to launch a criminal investigation into Batawi's death. Though Hashemi has photographic evidence that Batawi was tortured, Iraqi officials accused Hashemi of doctoring the images with Photoshop, the Associated Foreign Press reported.
Hashemi is Iraq's top Sunni official. But in December, shortly after US troops left Iraq, the country's Shiite-dominated government issued an arrest warrant for him on terror charges. Hashemi says the allegations are politically motivated, the Wall Street Journal reported.