Iraqi ambassador's sons suspected of attacking boy in Portugal
The twin sons of Iraq’s ambassador to Portugal are suspected of leaving a teenager in a coma following an assault, and the government says it may ask Iraq to lift their diplomatic immunity from prosecution in a case that has provoked a national outcry.
One of the 17-year-old sons admitted in a Portuguese television interview broadcast Tuesday that he assaulted the 15-year-old Portuguese boy following an altercation in a bar.
The victim was in a coma for five days but regained consciousness and left intensive care Tuesday, according to family lawyer Santana-Maia Leonardo.
Portugal's foreign minister, Augusto Santos Silva, said the August 17 attack in the town of Ponte de Sor, 180 kilometres (110 miles) northeast of Lisbon, could merit criminal charges but would require Iraq’s cooperation, because the boys - sons of Iraqi Ambassador Saad Mohammed Ridha - enjoy diplomatic immunity.
"If lifting these people's diplomatic immunity is necessary for justice to be done in this extremely serious case, then Portugal will take steps, with the Iraqi authorities, for that immunity to be lifted," Santos Silva told SIC television.
Emergency services said the victim suffered broken facial bones and was taken by helicopter to a Lisbon hospital.
A statement from the Iraqi Foreign Ministry characterised the ambassador’s sons as victims of "a heavy beating" by six people at a restaurant.
It said one son received a broken nose and rib as the six-member group "cursed" the diplomat's sons “because they were Arabs and Muslims." The statement added that the ambassador has filed a police complaint.
But in their own interview to SIC, the twins displayed no visible injuries. In excerpts broadcast Tuesday, one of them admitted assaulting the boy when he was spotted on his own, long after the bar altercation, as the twins drove through the town.
One of the sons, identified on screen as Ali Ridha, said he punched the Portuguese boy, knocking him to the ground, then "kicked him a few times" before his brother, Haider, stopped him.
"It's a dangerous recipe when you have teenagers, alcohol, this group mentality," Haider Ridha told SIC. "Things get out of control." Both spoke in English throughout their interview.
They said they haven't claimed diplomatic immunity and have cooperated with detectives.A woman who answered the Iraqi embassy telephone said the matter was being handled between embassy staff and the Portuguese Foreign Ministry. She declined to provide further information.