Iraq calls in ambassador to Portugal
Iraq has summoned its ambassador to Portugal for consultation following a move by Lisbon to briefly arrest the envoy’s twin sons for assaulting a teenage boy.
The assault took place in the central Portuguese town of Ponte de Sor last Wednesday, when the Iraqi Ambassador Saad Mohammed Ridha’s 17-year-old sons engaged in scuffles with 15-year-old Ruben Cavaco and beat him. Cavaco was later put on a medically-induced coma.
The incident caused an uproar in Portugal.
A source close to the investigation in the European country said the twin Iraqi brothers, Haider and Ridha, were arrested but later released because of their diplomatic immunity.
Speaking in an interview with Portuguese television network SIC, Haider expressed remorse over the event, while Ridha said he acted in self-defense.
“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,” said Haider, offering his apologies to Cavaco and his family. He insisted that he wouldn’t leave Portugal.
His brother Ridha said the pair had been “attacked by five or six persons,” including Cavaco.
“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.
Ridha added that Cavaco bumped into them a little while later, and spoke in “a very aggressive tone… he hit me again in the face and on my shoulder.”
“I felt insulted and couldn’t take it anymore… so I ran after him, I punched him and a minute later, he was down on the ground. I kicked him a few times when he was down on the ground,” the Iraqi ambassador’s son said.
Ruben suffered a fractured skull and other extensive injuries. He was out of intensive care on Tuesday, but doctors say he is still unable to talk to investigators.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva has stated that Lisbon would request Baghdad to remove the diplomatic immunity of the two sons of the ambassador so that the pair can be prosecuted.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry has announced that it is following the case “with close concern” and had launched a probe to collect “details concerning this incident and gather information from mass media.”
The ministry’s spokesman Ahmad Jamal said the Iraqi ambassador to Portugal has been summoned to discuss the incident, adding that Iraq is keen to maintain “its good reputation” and solid relations with Portugal.