Jordanian anger over video of Iraqis beating lawyers, Baghdad expresses 'regret'
A view of the protesters gathered outside the Iraqi embassy in Amman. Image courtesy of The Jordan Times
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The Iraqi government on Tuesday expressed regret over a recent incident that took place in the Royal Cultural Centre, during an event for the Iraqi Embassy in Amman, where a group of Jordanian lawyers where attacked by embassy staff.
In a statement issued by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, posted on its website, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari called his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh and expressed the regret of the Iraqi government for the incident.
Describing the incident as actions taken by individuals that do not meet the goals of the “new Iraq”, the statement said that their behaviour contradicts diplomatic rules and habits. It added that Baghdad is committed to cooperating with Jordanian authorities to take all necessary measures to hold those responsible accountable and to ensure that such actions will not happen again.
Also Tuesday, Judeh told angry deputies that authorities in Baghdad are investigating their Ambassador to Amman Jawad Hadi Abbas, adding that Zebari told him that Iraq would withdraw any embassy staff involved in the fight.
A video showing Iraqi embassy staff attacking Jordanian activists last week during a function in Amman went viral on the web, provoking many angry reactions from citizens who urged the government to take action on the assault.
The video was posted on YouTube and many Jordanian news websites after it was aired by Iraqi satellite television station Dijlah, showing the fight that broke out during a celebration hosted by the Iraqi embassy on Thursday at the Royal Cultural Centre.
Calling for demonstrations against the Iraqi government and embassy, hundreds gathered in front of the Iraqi Embassy in Amman on Tuesday to protest “the brutal assault against a group of Jordanian activists,” who included lawyers belonging to the pan-Arabist Baath Party of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Two of these lawyers, Ziad Najdawi and Dirar Khatatneh, are shown punched, kicked and dragged, and later beaten with chairs, as they were chanting pro-Saddam slogans during the function that was held to commemorate what the embassy called “mass graves filled during the era of Saddam Hussein.”
Najdawi accused the Iraqi ambassador to Amman Jawad Hadi Abbas of ordering the security at the event to beat them.
He indicated that the ambassador said “bring me the lawyer of the tyrant” Saddam, in reference to Najdawi, who was part of the deposed Iraqi ruler’s defence team.
Najdawi explained that the lawyers went to the event expecting a political debate.
Some Jordanian commentators on social media also criticized the decision of the lawyers to attend the function, saying they were looking for trouble, a charge that Najdawi dismissed.
On social networks, many Jordanians were exchanging angry messages over the incident, calling on authorities to expel the ambassador.
Majda Sweiss said on Facebbok that an apology by the ambassador would not be sufficient, stressing that the envoy and all staff involved in the incident should be asked to leave the country “to restore the dignity of the Jordanian people”.
Haydar Salim agreed with her post, saying a serious action should be taken by the government as “insulting Jordanians in their homeland” should not be tolerated.
But some other Jordanians, like Ola Sawaei, said that the lawyers should not have gone to the event as they were not invited.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Sabah Rafie told The Jordan Times over the phone that the ministry had contacted the Iraqi embassy to get the details of the incident.
On Monday night, dozens of Jordanians gathered outside the Iraqi Embassy in Jabal Amman, shouting slogans against the Iraqi government, which they accused of being “an Iranian agent.”
They described the embassy staff as the “Shabeeha” of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. Shabeeha is the term used to describe militias loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Demonstrators also called for shutting down the “Maliki embassy” in Amman.
An official noted that police are already investigating the incident.
No officials from the embassy were available to comment on the issue despite repeated attempts by The Jordan Times.
However, the ambassador told Ammonnews website that he never ordered the staff to attack the lawyers.
Abbas, who talked to Ammonnews.net from Baghdad, said that embassy has filed a lawsuit against the lawyers for storming the event and for attacking two embassy staff.
The embassy, he continued, is studying all options to end the “crisis” including offering an apology to the Jordanian people.
The Jordan Bar Association and the Jordan Press Association condemned the attack on the lawyers, calling on authorities to take serious measures against the embassy staff and to refer the attackers to courts of law.
Also several parliamentarians issued statements calling on the government to take action.
By Omar Obeidat