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Jordanians take to extremes in debate over freed soldier
By Ahmed Bani Mustafa - Mar 13,2017 - Last updated at Mar 13,2017
AMMAN — Jordanians received the release of convicted soldier Ahmad Daqamseh with conflicting reactions as the public opinion regards him as either a national hero or a terrorist.
Daqamseh was serving a life sentence since March 13, 1997, after shooting dead seven 13-15-year-old Israeli schoolgirls in the Baqoura area on the Jordanian-Israeli border, and injuring five others.
The former border guard escaped the death penalty after he was declared mentally unstable by a tribunal and sentenced to life in prison, which equals a 20-year sentence under Jordanian law.
The shooting rampage took place three years after Jordan and Israel had signed a peace treaty.
His Majesty the late King Hussein visited Israel after the shooting to express his condolences to the girls’ parents.
Deputy Mohammad Riyati (Aqaba) wrote on his Facebook page that he visited Daqamseh to congratulate him on his freedom after serving the 20-year prison sentence, describing him as a “Muslim and Arab nations’ icon”.
Riyati said he would propose a memorandum to the Lower House to deduct JD100 from the 130 deputies’ salaries to be given to Daqamseh and his family.
In an article posted on Facebook, however, Jordanian columnist Basil Rafayah said there was no heroism in killing children, adding: “I hope that he will not be deceived by popular enthusiasm or the opposition that believed that the girls mocked him while praying”.
His act violated military doctrines and manhood values, claimed the writer, adding it was not fair to describe him as a hero just because he killed children while in the gun sight of nearby Israeli soldiers.
Rafayah concluded that “even if Israelis committed similar massacres, we are not supposed to respond in the same way, as our culture prohibits killing children”.
Fakher Daas, coordinator of the national campaign for student rights, Thabahtouna, said that Jordanians did not care much about the details of the act but instead that they considered it as a response to prolonged Israeli aggression against Palestinians and Arabs in general.
The festivities of Jordanians celebrating Daqamseh’s release contained a message condemning the peace agreement with Israel and stating that all Israeli plans to normalise relations with Arabs had failed, according to the activist.
The Jordan Times on Monday contacted several Jordanian opinion leaders who declined comment for various reasons such as the controversial nature of the debate and to avoid escalation of disputes.
Ahmad Daqamseh, who is serving a life sentence for killing seven Israeli schoolgirls in March 1997, was admitted to hospital late Tuesday night following a six-day hunger strike, police said Wednesday.
Around 1,000 Jordanians gathered outside the Kalouti Mosque near the Israeli embassy in Amman on Friday to protest the killing of Jordanian Judge Raed Zuaiter.
His Majesty King Abdullah on Sunday visited the family of Judge Raed Zuaiter, who was killed by Israeli soldiers last week, to offer condolences, the Royal Court said on its Twitter account.
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