Israel Summons Jordan Envoy Over Call to Release Terrorist

Jordan's newly elected justice minister called for release of Ahmed Deqamseh, who killed seven when he opened fire at Israeli schoolchildren near the border in 1997.

The Foreign Ministry summoned a Jordanian embassy official on Tuesday, to rebuke him over an earlier call by Jordan's justice minister to free a man guilty of perpetrating a terror attack during which seven Israeli schoolchildren were killed.

Jordan's newly elected justice minister, Hussein Mjali, joined protesters on Monday who were demonstrating for the release of Ahmed Deqamseh, who opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls in Naharayim near the Jordan-Israel border in 1997, killing seven and injuring six.

Mjali, who is seen as close to the Muslim opposition, served as the defense lawyer for Deqamseh, who was a soldier when the shooting took place.

"I'm committed to be here with you as his lawyer," Mjali told the group demonstrating for Deqamseh's release. "He doesn't deserve to be in prison."

During the meeting between Israeli Foreign Ministry representatives and the Jordanian embassy official Israel stressed that it harshly condemns the Mjali's comments, and demanded that the Jordanian government issue a public statement condemning all calls to release Deqamesh. The ministry also insisted that Jordan clarify that Daqamesh will continue to serve out his 25-year sentence in a Jordanian prison.

Mjali, while showing solidarity with the demonstration, called Daqamesh a "hero" and said his imprisonment is unjustified.

Jordan has still not appointed a new ambassador to Israel, so in the meantime, Israel's foreign embassy met with a top Jordanian official who is serving as temporary ambassador.

Israel responded to Mjali's comments on Monday by sending the ambassador in Amman, Daniel Nevo, to speak with several senior Jordanian officials and convey Israel's sharp protest.

Nevo said Israel demanded an explanation for the minister's statements and an official denunciation to the media.

The Jordanian officials dismissed Mjali's statements saying they did not represent the government's position but the minister's personal opinion.

"Israel is shocked and disgusted by the Jordanian justice minister's utterance about the murderer of Naharayim," the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said in a statement on Monday. "This is especially grave because it was uttered by the minister in charge of law and justice. Israel expects the murderer to continue serving the sentence handed down by the Jordanian justice system."

Israeli Embassy spokeswoman Merav Horsandi said "it is difficult for us to comprehend how there are people who support the release of a cold-blooded murderer of young children."

She said an early release would contradict the spirit of the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries.