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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Jordan presses Israel to prosecute embassy guard who killed two Jordanians

The Jordanian ministry of foreign affairs handed Israel the findings of a public prosecution investigation into the incident, and asked for the guard to be prosecuted in Israel in line with article 31 of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic ties, according to the government news agency Petra

Mourners waving the Palestinian flag march at the funeral of Mohammed Al Jawawdeh, who was killed by an Israeli security guard, in Amman on July 25, 2017. Lindsey Leger / AP
Mourners waving the Palestinian flag march at the funeral of Mohammed Al Jawawdeh, who was killed by an Israeli security guard, in Amman on July 25, 2017. Lindsey Leger / AP

Jordan is pressing Israel to prosecute a security guard who killed two Jordanians at the Israeli embassy in Amman, saying his diplomatic immunity does not prevent him from facing trial in Israel.

On Friday, the Jordanian ministry of foreign affairs handed Israel the findings of a public prosecution investigation into the incident, and asked for the guard to be prosecuted in Israel in line with article 31 of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, according to the government news agency Petra.

Attorney general Akram Masaadeh said that although the Israeli security guard enjoyed diplomatic immunity, this did not prevent him from being charged in Israel and standing trial there. Article 31 of the Vienna convention states that diplomatic immunity "does not exempt [a diplomatic agent] from the jurisdiction of the sending state".

Mr Masaadeh added that the guard had been charged in absentia in Jordan with two counts of murder and for possessing an unlicensed weapon.

It comes after Israeli media reported on Thursday that Israeli authorities had questioned the guard — who has been named in reports only as "Ziv" — over the incident. Footage from Monday night showed Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu embracing the man and patting him on the shoulder when he arrived home in Israel. Jordan had allowed him to leave the country after authorities took his testimony.

The guard shot dead Mohammad Al Jawawdeh, a 16-year-old carpenter, on Sunday after the two men argued over the delivery and installation of bedroom furniture at a residential building leased to the Israeli embassy, according to a police report. Al Jawawdeh attacked and wounded the guard, who responded by shooting the teenager and also the Jordanian landlord of the property, Bashar Hamarneh, who was standing next to him. The landlord later died in hospital.

During his questioning in Israel on Thursday, the guard denied the Jordanian police report, saying he was attacked for "nationalistic reasons", according to Israeli media.

The killings have soured ties between the two countries which signed a peace treaty in 1994 and had been stepping up their security co-operation amid the war in Syria and in the fight against ISIL.

The 1994 treaty is unpopular in Jordan where many citizens are of Palestinian origin. Under article 11 of the treaty, the two countries agree to “ensure mutual enjoyment by each other's citizens of due process of law within their respective legal systems and before their courts".

Ibrahim Aljazy, a Jordanian lawyer and a former minister of justice, said that according to the treaty, the guard should face trial in his own country.

"By exerting pressure on Israel to prosecute the guard, Jordan has acted to defend its national interests,” said Mr Aljazy. “Israel should take this demand seriously especially because the tensions might impact any security co-operation between both countries given the war in Syria and the fight against ISIS.”

The embassy incident also stoked tensions that were already running high over the implementation of new Israeli measures at Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, of which Jordan is the custodian.

It also drew a strong public response from Jordan's King Abdullah who criticised Mr Netanyahu on Thursday and demanded that the guard face justice.

“After the king’s statements, it is clear to everyone that the crisis with Israel is beyond a diplomatic crisis. It has turned into a major political crisis,” wrote Fahed Kheitan, a columnist for Alghad, a daily newspaper based in Amman.

“Pertaining to the legal aspects, the government should not give up on the trial of the murderer … Israel is not committed to this. Politically, the government has the right to adopt the needed steps to respond to this shameful conduct adopted by Israel to win over the Jordanians' dignity and rights.”

US president Donald Trump spoke on the phone with King Abdullah on Friday "to discuss the events that transpired in the region over the past two weeks", a White House statement said.

It added that both leaders said they were encouraged by the efforts taken to de-escalate tensions and pledged to continue to stay in close communication.

President Trump also emphasised Jordan’s important role in regional security, it said.

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