BAGHDAD (AP) — Interpol has put Iraq's fugitive Sunni vice president on its most-wanted list after issuing Tuesday a so-called "red notice" for Tariq al-Hashemi, who is currently in Turkey.
The Lyon, France-based organization said on its website the move came at the request of the government in Baghdad.
Iraq has charged al-Hashemi — one of the nation's highest-ranking Sunni politicians — with terrorism, accusing him of guiding and financing death squads that targeted government officials, security forces and Shiite pilgrims.
Al-Hashemi is being tried in absentia in Baghdad. The Shiite-led government links him to about 150 bombings, assassinations and other attacks. It says the death squads were largely composed of the vice president's bodyguards and other employees.
The trial was postponed last week as al-Hashemi's lawyers appealed to have parliament create a special court to hear the case. The Sunni vice president has vowed not to return to face what he calls politically motivated charges.
A red notice by Interpol seeks the arrest or provisional arrest of a wanted person with a view to eventual extradition. The subjects of red notices are considered to be on the organization's most-wanted list.
Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said the red notice for al-Hashemi "will significantly restrict his ability to travel and cross international borders."
"It is a powerful tool that will help authorities around the world locate and arrest him," Interpol's website quoted Noble as saying.
Officials in Ankara could not immediately be reached for comment.
Many member countries consider a red notice to be a valid request for the arrest of a suspect, but Interpol cannot demand individual nations make an arrest. Turkey, which has provided sanctuary to al-Hashemi and is on tense terms with his opponents in the Iraqi government, has not responded so far to the Interpol notice.
Al-Hashemi is staying under the protection of Turkish security agents at a luxury apartment in Istanbul, Turkey's NTV television said. A policeman with a machinegun guards the entrance of his apartment building, and several police cars were parked outside on Tuesday, according to NTV.
In an interview last week in Istanbul, al-Hashemi told The Associated Press that his trial was part of a political vendetta that has wider repercussions for Iraqi unity and sectarian tensions across the Middle East.
He also alleged that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, may have engineered the proceedings to snuff out domestic opposition in case he is threatened by a revolt in Iraq similar to that in neighboring Syria.
Al-Hashemi's representatives maintain he left Iraq for diplomatic meetings with regional leaders, not to escape arrest.
Al-Maliki's media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi, on Tuesday called on al-Hashemi to return to Iraq and face trial.
"After the issuing of this red notice, I think that the best choice for al-Hashemi now is to return to Iraq and stand a fair trial," al-Moussawi told The AP over the phone.
Associated Press writer Selcan Hacaoglu contributed to this report from Ankara, Turkey.