Iraq recalls envoy to Portugal after attack blamed on his sons

Portugal’s Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said the ambassador, Mohamed Ridha, had been recalled to Baghdad. (AFP)

Iraq recalled its ambassador to Portugal on Thursday, after refusing requests to waive diplomatic immunity given to its envoy’s twin sons, who are accused of brutally assaulting a teenager. Portugal’s Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said the ambassador, Mohamed Ridha, had been recalled to Baghdad.

Prosecutors have sought to question brothers Haider and Ridha Ali over an incident in August that according to the 15-year-old victim’s lawyer left him with a fractured skull. “Portugal has not declared the Iraqi ambassador persona non grata, he was recalled by his own country,” the minister told reporters in Lisbon.

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Despite repeated requests from Portugal “the Iraqi authorities consider that there is no sufficient justification for waiver of the diplomatic immunity of the two sons of the ambassador,” he said. The incident on August 17 last year in Ponte de Sor, central Portugal, followed a brawl between locals and pupils at a nearby flight school where one of the twins is enrolled, local media said.

The Ridha brothers – then aged 17 – were arrested but later released because they had diplomatic immunity. Portuguese prosecutors on Wednesday asked again for the twins’ diplomatic immunity to be lifted, saying it was “indispensable” for the “attempted homicide” investigation that they be questioned.

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A source close to the investigation said the ambassador last week reached an out of court settlement with the victim’s family to pay 40,000 euros, in addition to 12,000 euros already handed over to cover medical expenses. Haider and Ridha were interviewed on the Portuguese television channel SIC in August, with the former expressing remorse while the latter claimed to have been defending himself from attack.

“I am ready to fully accept the responsibility of my actions, I don’t know what is the Iraqi government’s reaction. I am not hiding under the umbrella of the diplomatic immunity,” Haider Ali said, offering his “deepest apologies” and insisting he wouldn’t leave Portugal. His brother Ridha said the pair had been “attacked by five or six persons”. “They passed me around like a ball. I was trying to fight but I couldn’t do much, they were too many people,” he said.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:00 - GMT 11:00
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