BAGHDAD, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- An Iraqi vice president charged with backing death squads should go to Baghdad to defend himself, a legal official in Iraq said.
Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki charged Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi with operating a death squad. Hashemi denies allegations and has sought refuge in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
Tariq Harb, a judicial authority in Iraq, told the Voices of Iraq news Hashemi should return to Baghdad to avoid trial in absentia.
"Hashemi has to come to Baghdad and defend himself regarding the accusations made against him," Harb said.
A judicial panel last week said Hashemi was tied to several bombings and assassinations as far back as 2005.
Political tensions in Iraq erupted almost immediately after U.S. forces left the country in December under the terms of a bilateral status of forces agreement. Members of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya slate had boycotted the government in response to rising tensions, though some members have since returned.
Rowsch Nuri Shaways, a deputy prime minister and member of a leading Kurdish political party, warned last week of an "accumulation of new problems" that was complicating Iraq's efforts to build "a new democracy."