Portugal is at last getting tough with the Iraqi embassy over the situation of its ambassador’s twin sons’ savage beating of a Portuguese youth in August.
The embassy faces a new deadline which this time looks unmovable.
Either it agrees to lift the diplomatic immunity protecting the 17-year-olds from prosecution by the end of next week, or the boys face being declared “personas non gratae”, and summarily expelled from the country.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Santos Silva told journalists yesterday (Friday): “It is time to pass from words to acts”.
He stopped short of saying whether Iraq’s failure to meet this new deadline could mean the youths’ father, Iraqi ambassador Saad Mohammed Ridha Ali, might be considered equally “non grata”.
“As I have said from the beginning, Portugal will use all the instruments available under international law”, he explained – adding that there is “no reason for Iraq not to formally communicate its reply to the request by Portuguese authorities”.
This is a wrangle that has been ping-ponging back and forth since Portugal formally called for the lifting of diplomatic immunity on August 25.
The attack on then 15-year-old Rúben Cavaco a week earlier left the boy so badly beaten he was unrecognisable.
Put into an induced coma for six days, he had to undergo facial reconstructive surgery and there were fears that he would suffer permanent brain damage.
Twin Ridha Ali was reported to have sought hospital treatment after the beating for an injury to his foot, which he claimed had been hurt due to kicking the fallen Rúben in the head.
Rúben meantime has made an ‘against-all-odds’ recovery.
His mother Vilma Pires has nonetheless told reporters that her son has “lost” the spontaneity and joy he used to show for life, smiles far less readily – and aside from needing dental treatment for the loss of a number of teeth and injuries to his jaw – has started to lose his hair.
Indeed the family is concerned, she stresses, that this new ‘hard line’ shown by Portuguese authorities may be a blind, masking the fact that neither Portugal or Iraq is prepared to ‘do the right thing’ by her son, and prosecute the Iraqi twins.
Simply declaring them “personas non gratae” would give Iraq a way out, she said, paving the way for further injustice to Rúben, and the Portuguese people in general.