Iraq’s fugitive Sunni vice president on Monday declared his “absolute innocence” and rejected the terror trial that sentenced him to death on charges of masterminding the murder of rivals as a politically motivated sham.

Tariq al-Hashemi, who fled Iraq after the country’s government brought the charges against him, called the trial illegitimate and accused Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a longtime foe of the vice president, of orchestrating it as part of a political vendetta.

“I totally reject and will never recognize” the verdict, al-Hashemi told reporters in the Turkish capital of Ankara. “I consider the verdict a medal on my chest.”

“The death sentence is a price I have to pay due to love to my country and my loyalty to my people,” he added. “I reiterate that I’m innocent, and am ready to stand before a fair judicial system and not a corrupt one that is under al-Maliki’s influence.”

Mr. Al-Hashemi fled to Turkey after Iraq government issued the terror charges against him in December, the day after U.S. troops withdrew from the country. He would receive a retrial if he agrees to return to Baghdad, but Mr. al-Hashemi has refused, saying he will never get a fair hearing in a Baghdad court.

Mr. Al-Hashemi appeared defiantly upbeat at the packed press conference. “I am not worried about my life,” he said. “I am worried about the future of my country.”

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