Iraq's Parliament Speaker Says He'll Sue

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 12, 2007; 3:03 PM

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's parliament speaker warned on Tuesday he will take his case to court if lawmakers stick to their decision to replace him, complaining that the 275-seat legislature acted irresponsibly in voting to remove him.

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab, told a news conference he had no intention of resigning as demanded by the lawmakers, who voted in a closed session Monday to appoint his deputy, Shiite Khaled al-Attiyah, to take over the speaker's job until a Sunni Arab replacement is found.

"The speaker of the Council of Representatives is not a toy in the hands of juvenile politicians," he said. "I refuse to resign and will take my case to the federal court if I must."

Lawmakers gave the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni Arab bloc in parliament, a week to name a replacement. Al-Mashhadani, a former physician once jailed by Saddam Hussein, will keep his seat but lose his position as speaker.

Al-Mashhadani repeatedly has embarrassed the Sunni Arabs in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated coalition government. Many legislators viewed his behavior as unbecoming and occasionally erratic.

Last year, he survived a campaign by Shiite and Kurdish politicians to remove him after he said Iraqis who killed American troops should be celebrated as heroes. Last month, he slapped a Sunni lawmaker in the face and called him "scum" at the end of a raucous session.

The latest controversy came Sunday when lawmaker Firyad Mohammed Omar, a Shiite Turkoman, said the speaker's security guards dragged him by his tie and shirt and briefly detained him in an unused office after he complained that they shoved him.

The incident took place outside the chamber in parliament's building, located in the U.S.-protected Green Zone in central Baghdad.

"The Council of Representatives should have heard my side of the story and should have waited for the findings of an investigation into the incident that I ordered," said al-Mashhadani, who acknowledged that he told Omar to "bang his head against a wall," the Arabic equivalent of "go to hell," when the lawmaker did not accept his explanation for the guards' behavior.

Al-Mashhadani said neither he nor his security guards had recognized Omar, whom the guards blocked when he came too close to the speaker. He claimed the guards were on high alert Sunday after they received intelligence that the speaker was the potential target of a possible attack.

"The guards were doing their job. The part between the chamber and my office is a high-risk area," he said. "My guards must act to stop anyone they don't recognize from coming too close."

Since taking office a year ago, al-Mashhadani has survived at least one assassination attempt. His brother was kidnapped and killed last month and gunmen shot dead one of his bodyguards and wounded another last November.

It was not clear whether al-Mashhadani has sufficient legal grounds for taking his case to court. He told Tuesday's news conference that lawmakers had no grounds to oust him because they did not observe due process, which he said would have involved waiting for the findings of the investigation he ordered into Sunday's incident and hearing his version of what happened.

Al-Mashhadani did not attend Monday's session, which was chaired by his deputy, al-Attiyah.

© 2007 The Associated Press