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Lawyer looks to sue US ambassador, social development minister over illegal ‘meeting for homosexuals’

By Raed Omari - Jun 01,2015 - Last updated at Jun 01,2015

AMMAN — A Jordanian lawyer on Saturday said he will go ahead with a lawsuit against the US ambassador and the social development minister, citing the former’s attendance at an anti-homophobia meeting and the latter’s inaction on “such an unlicensed activity”.

Tareq Abul Ragheb said he was informed by the attorney general last Thursday that the lawsuit against US Ambassador to Jordan Alice G. Wells and Social Development Minister Reem Abu Hassan cannot be accepted by court due to their diplomatic and ministerial immunity. 

Abul Ragheb told The Jordan Times he insists on suing on “purely legal grounds”, noting that Abu Hassan should have taken action on the event, reportedly organised without prior notice in violation of the Public Gatherings Law.

According to the law, organisers of public events should inform authorities ahead of time about the time and place of their meetings.

Abul Ragheb claimed that “a meeting for homosexuals” was held in Amman “secretly” during which Wells gave a speech, and a colleague of his has already filed a lawsuit against the ambassador in Washington for her participation in an activity in the host country that is “illegal and unlicensed”.

The US embassy in Amman declined to comment on the issue.

Citing the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Abul Ragheb said the immunity of a diplomat from the jurisdiction of the host country does not exempt him/her from the jurisdiction of his/her home country.

“Organisers of the meeting did not inform the authorities; thus their activity was simply illegal,” the lawyer claimed.

Abul Ragheb noted that the matter has turned into a “public opinion concern”, and he received calls from several MPs supporting his lawsuit.

“So, in Well’s case, the issue is now being looked into in Washington… I told the prosecution that their job when it comes to trying ministers is not to reject or approve but be informed as such a matter is the sole jurisdiction of the Lower House.”

According to Article 55 of the Constitution, “the House can refer ministers to the attorney general upon a decision taken by a majority of MPs.”

The event, held in mid-May according to online magazine My.Kali, marked the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Bi-phobia (IDAHOT).

It was organised by “a group of activists, an informal Jordanian group advocating and protecting LGBTI; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex in Jordan, in cooperation with My.Kali magazine”, the publication said.

My.Kali published a note at the end of the story on the meeting responding to reports circulated by local websites.

“Contrary to news reports, the US ambassador and the US embassy did not sponsor the event. IDAHOT Jordan 2015 is a non-funded advocacy event organised exclusively by a group of activists and My.Kali magazine to spread awareness on the social, cultural and business challenges faced by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex and Agender (LGBTQIA) community in Jordan. 

“Members of several EU embassies, including the US embassy, unofficially attended the event as a show of support for LGBTQIA rights,” the magazine said.

It added that the event “was not held to ‘demand/celebrate LGBTQAI rights’ as reported. It was purely organised to raise awareness on the broad spectrum of sexual orientation as well as the legal situation and social status of LGBTQIA individuals in Jordan.”

 

In addition to individuals from the LGBTQIA community, attendees “mostly comprised non-LGBTQIA individuals interested in learning more about sexuality and the LGBTQIA situation in Jordan, as well as people from different ideologies, backgrounds, religions and sexual orientation”, the magazine said.

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