Jordan Ambassador: 'Killer Will Not Be Released'

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Jordanian Ambassador to Israel Walid Khalid Obeidat said the convicted killer of seven Israeli school girls would serve out his life sentence.

In 1997, a Jordanian court sentenced Corporal Ahmad Daqameh to life in prison for murdering seven Israeli school children and wounding six others during an outing near the border with Israel. The court ruled that Daqameh was mentally insane, thereby avoiding the death penalty.

Daqameh said he killed the girls because they disturbed him with whistling and clapping while he was praying.

Immediately after the tragedy, the late King Hussein, father of Jordanian King Abdullah II, came to Israel to visit the girls' parents, deeply touching not only the bereaved families, but the country as a whole.

More than a dozen years after King Hussein's compassionate response, things have changed somewhat.

In the early days of the "Arab Spring," the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood organized massive anti-government demonstrations, with the goal of gaining a political majority.

Spurred on by uprisings in Egypt and other Middle East countries, the Brotherhood, known in Jordan as the Islamic Action Front, called on the country to follow their examples.

In an effort to pacify their demands and keep the Hashemite Kingdom intact, Abdullah revamped parts of his cabinet, which included appointing opposition member Hussein Mjali, an Islamist who opposes Jordan's treaty with Israel, as the new justice minister.

Last year, Mjali, who served as Daqameh's defense attorney, demanded his early release. The justice minister has the support of the majority of legislators in Jordan's lower house of parliament.

On Monday, families of the murdered school children demonstrated outside the Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv. Ambassador Obeidat invited them into the embassy, where he told them Jordan's policy had not changed and Daqameh would not be released.

"He let all of us express our pain," one mother told YNet. "All in all, he tried to put our minds at ease," she said.

Another parent said the ambassador "was kind" and "heard what we had to say."

Daqameh's mother shared a different point of view a few years after her son's conviction. Speaking with al Jazeera in May 2001, she said "I am proud of my son, and I hold my head high. My son did an heroic deed and has pleased Allah and his own conscience."

"I am proud of any Muslim who does what Ahmad did…When my son went to prison, they asked him, 'Ahmad, do you regret it?' He answered, 'I have no regrets,'" she recalled.

"He treated everyone to coffee, honored all the other prisoners, and said, 'The only thing that I am angry about is the gun, which did not work properly. Otherwise, I would have killed all the passengers on the [school] bus.'"

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