Jordan withdraws athletes from Paralympics over alleged sex offences during pre-Games training in Northern Ireland

 

Three members of the Jordanian Paralympic squad charged with sex offences will not be taking part in the Games, organisers have confirmed.

Locog said the Jordanian Paralympic Committee had withdrawn the men from their team for London 2012.

The three, who appeared in court yesterday accused of committing a string of offences while in pre-Games training in Northern Ireland, are returning to Jordan.

"We have been informed by the Jordanian National Paralympic Committee that they will not be entering the athletes in question into the London 2012 Paralympic Games," said a Locog spokewoman.

"The athletes have returned to Jordan."

The men are due back in court in Northern Ireland on October 18.

Omar Sami Qaradhi, Faisal Hammash and Motaz Al Junaidi, all members of the Jordanian power-lifting squad, have been accused of a series of charges, including sexual assault and voyeurism, following complaints by two girls and two women in Antrim.

The three were released on combined bail and sureties of £5,500 each after appearing at Coleraine Magistrates' Court in Co Londonderry.

They have to make weekly contact with the Jordanian embassy in London before their next appearance in court.

The Jordanian team has been training in Antrim, about 22 miles from Belfast, in advance of the Paralympic Games starting next week.

The three were detained on Monday for questioning by detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The court heard yesterday that the king of Jordan is taking a personal interest in the case.

A representative of the Jordanian government, counsellor Rulan Samara from the London embassy, told the court: "His majesty the king of Jordan (King Abdullah the Second) was inquiring about the matter and was asking about all the details."

Supporting a bail application, she promised that the accused would be brought back for future court appearances in Northern Ireland by her government and offered a surety.

Wheelchair user Omar Sami Qaradhi, 31, faces three charges of sexual assault, two against a child, and one of voyeurism after allegedly entering a women's changing room at the Antrim Forum leisure centre.

Faisal Hammash, 35, is accused of inciting two girls to engage in sexual activity.

Power lifter Motaz Al Junaidi, 45, who is also a wheelchair user, is accused of sexual assault.

The Jordanian delegation arrived in Northern Ireland on August 8. The alleged offences took place between last Thursday and Monday.

The Jordanian Olympic and Paralympic committees and the Jordanian embassy in London have all expressed regret at the charges and said they had confidence the defendants would get a fair hearing.

The three team members are flying to the Jordanian capital, Amman, today.

The Jordanian Paralympic Committee said it would not have been appropriate for them to have taken part in London 2012.

"The president and board of the Jordanian Paralympic Committee (JPC) decided that, although the case will not be heard again in court until October 18, it would be inappropriate for the accused athletes to compete at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, so they will be sent home to Amman," said a committee statement.

It added: "We have a zero tolerance on any misconduct and will continue to work closely with the Northern Ireland authorities to assist in their investigation.

"However, our focus is now preparing the remaining members of the team for competition and we look forward to taking part in what promises to be a truly magnificent sporting event."

PA

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