BAGHDAD (AP) — An Iraqi appeals court Tuesday refused to allow President Jalal Talabani testify in a terror trial against the nation's Sunni vice president, a case that has deepened the rift between the country's largely sectarian-based political factions.
The latest session in the case against Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi follows the bloodiest day in Iraq in two years. Monday's attacks killed 115 people and came on the heels of a declaration by al-Qaida's new leader that the movement hopes to reestablish itself in Sunni areas and recreate alliances with Sunni tribes.
Al-Hashemi, one of Iraq's highest-ranking Sunni politicians, is accused of running death squads that targeted Shiite officials and pilgrims. Al-Hashemi, who is in Turkey avoiding trial, has denied the wrongdoing and has said he is the victim of a political vendetta by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Attorney Muayad Obeid al-Ezzi, the head of al-Hashemi's defense team, said the Iraq's federal appeals court upheld an earlier decision by the Baghdad's criminal court to not take Talabani's testimony.
In May, al-Hashemi filed a request to have Talabani, an ethnic Kurd, serve as a character witness, along with two other government officials and five Sunni lawmakers. Defense lawyers sought to ask if they had any information about al-Hashemi's role in terror attacks. But the three-judge panel rejected the request, saying it would add nothing to the case.
Also in Tuesday's session, the court heard more testimony from five police officers who told the court they found pistol silencers during two separate raids on the homes of al-Hashemi and Ahmed Qahtan, his son-in-law and office manager. The court also heard from a woman and her son who are Qahtan's neighbors who said they saw policemen taking silencers from the house.
Another witness, one of more than 70 of al-Hashemi's guards now in detention, told the government how he used to drive other guards to plant roadside bombs.
The trial is scheduled to continue Aug. 14.
Also Tuesday, Iraqi officials raised the death toll from Iraq's deadliest day in more than two years to 115.
Police and hospital officials said that five more people died from injuries sustained in a late-night car bombing Monday near a cafe in a Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. Initial casualty figures often change in the immediate hours following attacks.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Monday's death toll was the worst for a single day in Iraq since May 10, 2010, when a string of nationwide attacks killed at least 119 people.