Page last updated at 08:54 GMT, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 09:54 UK

Iraq bank raiders to be hanged

A police car stands outside the Rafidain bank in Baghdad's Karrada district on 28 July, after the robbery there
The robbery was one of the biggest in Iraq since the US-led invasion

An Iraqi court has sentenced to death four security force members found guilty of taking part in a bank robbery in which eight guards were killed.

Gunmen stormed the state-owned Rafidin bank in July and made off with about $5m (£3m) worth of Iraqi dinars.

The guards at the bank in the Karrada district of Baghdad were found bound, gagged and shot in a basement, reports at the time of the raid said.

Two former bodyguards of Iraq's vice-president were among the accused.

Adel Abdel Mahdi, who belongs to a powerful Shia Muslim political group, has denied any involvement of his party in the crime.

A trail of clues led to the recovery of most of the money at the office of a newspaper owned by Mr Abdel Mahdi, investigators said.

The condemned men were named as Ahmad Khalaf, Ali Eidan, Basheer Khalid and Ali Ouda.

Four other people were being tried in absentia, including a captain in the Presidential Guard, Jafar al-Timimi, and his nephew Lt Amin Karim, the alleged masterminds of the raid. Their whereabouts are not known.

Political accusation

The judges gave the condemned men one month to appeal the sentence. They all proclaimed their innocence during the proceedings.

Correspondents say the case has potential for major political fallout despite Mr Abdel Mahdi's denials of any involvement of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council to which he belongs.

He has acknowledged that one of robbers worked in his security detail but said allegations that he had been involved were politically motivated.

A fifth defendant was acquitted for lack of evidence.

During the trial, judges had to adjourn hearings when angry relatives of the dead guards assaulted the defendants, spitting at them across the courtroom and in one incident beating a defendant in the dock.

No relatives were allowed in court for the sentencing, but outside, Ali Hussein Ali, the brother of one of the victims, said he was happy although he wanted to see the missing suspects brought to justice.

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