Saad Mohammed Ridha Ali.jpg

Baghdad removes Iraqi ambassador from Portugal

Baghdad has turned the tables on Portugal in the long-running wrangle over whether or not to lift diplomatic immunity in the case of the twin sons of its ambassador, both “strongly suspected” of the crime of attempted murder.

In a hastily convened press conference today, foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva admitted this was not the result Portugal had been hoping for.

Days after the ‘final deadline’ extended to Iraq over the horrific beating meted out to 15-year-old Rúben Cavaco in Ponte de Sor last summer (click here), the answer has come back: diplomatic immunity stays firmly in place.

Instead, Iraq has decided to replace the ambassador – recalling him and his family to Iraq – and “use the possibility that international law confers” for Iraq itself to proceed with the judicial process against the twins.

“This will be done under mechanisms of judicial cooperation that exist between different countries, including Portugal and Iraq”, explains TSF radio.

But it is also a nifty way of protecting both the 18-year-old twins, and their diplomat father.

For the removal from Lisbon of Saad Mohammed Ridha Ali leaves Portugal with no reason to declare him “persona non grata” – a blot on his character that would not elevate him in future diplomatic appointments.

Needless to say, nothing in this case has served to elevate Iraq or its representatives in any way at all.

Last week, a ‘deal’ to ‘compensate’ Rúben and his family for the ordeal of his beating was finally struck – €52,000 in return for an agreement ‘not to press charges’ (click here).

In other words, money talked in a situation that has been hugely criticised over social media for the fact that it “will surely leave the twins feeling that every time they do something awful, daddy will pay”.

Only 24-hours earlier, Portugal’s ministry for foreign affairs had ‘revealed’ new information, received from the Attorney General’s office, which it said made it essential that diplomatic immunity was lifted so that the twins could answer “strong suspicions” that they were both guilty in this case of the crime of attempted murder.

Witness reports and forensics all pointed to a scenario in which the twins had acted alone, and relentlessly kicked and attacked 15-year-old Rúben long after the youngster had lost consciousness and lay immobile on the road.

This is a case that not only shocked the country but which has been closely followed by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa who today said that Portuguese authorities “have done everything that they should have done up until now, and will continue to do so”, adding that this is an issue that demands “respect for the State of democratic law, on the one hand and respect for the rules of diplomacy on the other”.

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PHOTO: Saad Mohammed Ridha Ali taking up his post as ambassador during the presidency of Cavaco Silva