Iraqi cleric pledges to pursue Maliki 'to Mars'
Controversial Iraqi cleric Mahmoud al-Hasani al-Sarkhi has accused former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of being a war criminal. He has pledged to pursue Maliki "even until Mars" to bring the former leader to justice.
Sarkhi made his vow during a conference for Iraqi tribes in Erbil, and is the latest event in a long-running row between the two leading Shia figures.
Ahmed al-Hafizi, one of Sarkhi's representatives, stated his movement would take legal action against Maliki for crimes against the Iraqi people. A legal team has been formed to pursue the case, he said.
Sarkhi supporters blame the former prime minister for being behind "a massacre" of the cleric's followers in Karbala in July. The majority of the 45 people killed in clashes between security forces and the cleric's supporters were Sarkhi followers. The radical movement has made previous claims that security forces under Maliki killed men, women and children, and mutilated their corpses.
According to the cleric's official website, a meeting took place between a Sarkhi representative and Namik Heydarov, a strategic planning adviser at the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Heydarov pledged to notify the UN about the killing of the cleric's supporters once he had ascertained more information about the Karbala event.
Refusal to serve
Sarkhi loyalists claim that Maliki's hostility to their movement came after they refused an Iranian request to form a militia in the service of the Islamic republic. This group, they say, would have reported directly to Iran's Quds Force chief Qassem Suleiman - and for their service in Iran's overseas force, they would gain political and financial favours in Iraq.
Supporters say that Sarkhi's rejection of the plan forced him to flee Iraq following accusations of supporting terrorism and causing chaos in the country. Hundreds of his supporters who remained in Iraq have reportedly been arrested of killed.
This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.