AMMAN, Jordan, (AP) -An Iraqi Sunni lawmaker denied Monday that he had stashed weapons in his Baghdad home and accused the Iraqi government and Iran of trying to discredit him because of his criticism of state policies.
Khalaf al-Ilyan spoke to The Associated Press one day after an Iraqi military spokesman said U.S. and Iraqi troops had found a huge stash of weapons in his home and arrested more than a dozen men.
Al-Ilyan, who is recovering from knee surgery in Jordan, accused the Shiite-led government of a smear campaign against him. He said if there were weapons at his home, the Shiite-led security forces must have planted them.
“Government authorities search my house twice a week. How can I stash away weapons there? How can I hide weapons there? Am I that foolish to do that when there are so many areas in Iraq where weapons could be concealed?” al-Ilyan said.
He called the government’s allegations against him “unfounded, baseless and unjust.”
Al-Ilyan, one of three leaders of the main Sunni Arab bloc in parliament, said the government was out to get him because he has spoken out against its policies.
“The government stands against anyone who speaks the truth or dares to speak out against its policies and actions,” al-Ilyan said. “I always talk loudly. I say that the government harbors terrorism and terrorists. They don’t like that. So, they accuse us of being terrorists.”
He said he planned to write a letter to parliament and to contact U.S. officials “to make them understand the reality behind all this.”
During a news conference Sunday, Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the spokesman for the Baghdad security plan, said a search of al-Ilyan’s west Baghdad home uncovered “many weapons and explosive materials.”
They included 33 Kalashnikov rifles, three pistols, one hand grenade, 4.4 pounds of TNT and 13 82-milimeter mortar rounds, al-Moussawi said.
He did not say when the raid took place, but a U.S. military statement said it occurred last Tuesday.
The U.S. military said eight 57-mm rockets and 5,000 rounds of ammunition also were seized, along with photos of burning British soldiers and American flag-draped coffins.
Al-Moussawi said troops detained 12 people in the building for questioning. A U.S. military statement put the number of detainees at 14, and said they were al-Ilyan’s personal bodyguards.
As a parliament member, al-Ilyan enjoys immunity from prosecution unless the legislature lifts the prohibition against trial.
Al-Ilyan said he was not afraid of prosecution.
“I want to go back to Iraq, but I can’t now because I have no protection and no home. They destroyed everything in my house — cars, the refrigerator, television, everything,” al-Ilyan said. “If they were searching for weapons as they claim, why should they destroy the house?”