Iraq's judiciary denied on Wednesday the latest allegations by the country's fugitive vice president that two more of his bodyguards were tortured to death by security forces during a terrorism investigation last month.
The office of Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraq's top Sunni official, said the men died during an interrogation, according to a statement released late Tuesday. It did not give their names, identifying them only by their initials, A.H. and A.A.
It said they were killed a few days before the Arab summit held in Baghdad in late March.
Al-Hashemi's office demanded judicial authorities investigate the two deaths as well as that of a third bodyguard, Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi, who died earlier in detention.
Al-Hashemi previously alleged that al-Batawi was also tortured. The government later acknowledged his death but said he died of kidney failure while being questioned during the inquiry against the vice president.
On Wednesday, Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council, which runs the country's courts, denied that any detainee besides al-Batawi had died.
"After checking with the panel in charge of the investigation, we are sure that there is no torture nor any new death apart from the case of al-Batawi," Supreme Judicial Council spokesman Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar said.
Iraq's Shiite-dominated government has accused al-Hashemi of running death squads against Shiite pilgrims, government and security officials. The council has created a nine-judge panel specifically to investigate the charges against the vice president.
Al-Hashemi denies the charges against him, saying they are politically motivated. He fled to Iraq's Kurdish self-ruled region in December, and is currently in Turkey on a tour of neighboring Sunni-led countries.
Authorities are holding 73 detainees in connection with the case, Bayrkdar added.
Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed reporting.