Jamal Halaby
Associated Press
February 16, 2011 - 1:00am

Seeking to allay Israeli anger, Jordan reassured its neighbor Wednesday that a soldier who killed seven Israeli schoolgirls in 1997 will serve out his life sentence.

On Monday, Justice Minister Hussein Mjali had joined a protest in Amman calling for the release of Cpl. Ahmed Daqamseh. Mjali, once Daqamseh's defense lawyer, promised the protesters that he will seek his former client's immediate release.

In comments that particularly angered Israelis, Mjali portrayed the soldier as a hero who does not deserve to be in prison.

Daqamseh has served nearly half of his life sentence, which is 25 years in Jordan.

Israel on Tuesday summoned Jordan's envoy to express anger.

Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Kayed said Wednesday that the government is committed "to all the decisions and verdicts issued by our judiciary." He said Mjali expressed his personal opinion and did not bring up the soldier's fate in a Cabinet meeting Wednesday.

Mjali, an Arab nationalist appointed in a government shakeup last week, rejects the 1994 peace treaty with Israel. On Wednesday, a Jordanian newspaper quoted him as saying Israel is "an enemy state, which practices terrorism" against Palestinians.

Reached by the Associated Press to clarify, Mjali said: "People are putting words into my mouth." He declined to elaborate further.

Immediately after the attack on the school girls, Jordan's King Hussein — the late father of the current king, Abdullah II — had rushed to Israel and paid condolence visits to the families. The gesture touched Israelis and did much to defuse the crisis.

In a trial, the soldier avoided the death penalty because the court ruled he was mentally unstable.


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