Continued from page 1

In the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, residents took a certain glee at standing firm against Baghdad. Sweets seller Saman Karim said it’s likely that Barzani is more interested in snubbing al-Maliki than he is in helping al-Hashemi.

“The Kurds have no sympathy toward al-Hashemi — they just want to humiliate the central government,” Karim said.

How that will shape Iraq’s already unstable political balance is anyone’s guess. The Kurdish parties hold 51 of the 325 seats in parliament, and are generally considered kingmakers in most tiebreakers facing the legislature.

Political analyst Reidar Visser, an Iraq expert at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said the issue likely will cause the relationship between al-Maliki and Barzani to deteriorate even further.

“It is clear that al-Hashemi expects to enjoy immunity from detention in the Kurdish areas, which is going to create additional problems for the long-standing but shaky alliance between the Kurds and al-Maliki,” Visser said.

It’s also possible the Kurds will use al-Hashemi as a bargaining tool, said Kurdish human rights activist Omar Mohammed. He predicted the Kurds eventually will hand over al-Hashemi in exchange for something it wants from Baghdad.

Al-Hashemi said he wanted the trial to be moved to the northern city of Kirkuk, which is ethnically shared among Kurds, Arabs and Turkomen, and where the investigators or jury would not be tainted by Baghdad’s accusations.

He also lashed out at the judicial panel, which was appointed by Iraq’s highest court to investigate the charges. The panel’s results aren’t legally binding but they have been passed along to a criminal court which could choose to charge al-Hashemi with even more crimes. The panel touted its findings as the first independent review of al-Hashemi’s case, but critics and some experts said its judges were named by officials sympathetic to al-Maliki.

“Our judicial system is still working to satisfy some influential people,” al-Hashemi said.

Jakes reported from Baghdad. Associated Press Writers Bushra Juhi, Sinan Salaheddin and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad contributed to this report.