Jordan’s new justice minister joined dozens of protesters on Monday demanding the early release of a Jordanian soldier who killed seven Beit Shemesh schoolgirls in 1997.

Minister Hussein Mjali previously served as the defense lawyer of army Cpl. Ahmed Daqamseh, who shot dead the 11-year-olds, from Beit Shemesh’s Feurst School, on March 13, 1997. They were on a class trip to Naharayim in the Jordan Valley, visiting the “Island of Peace,” a joint Israeli-Jordanian tourist resort under Jordanian rule.

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Daqamseh was sentenced to life in prison, which translates into a 25-year sentence in Jordan. It’s unlikely he will win early release.

Israel has asked for an explanation from Jordan on the issue.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem issued a statement saying that Mjali’s comments were received in Israel with “revulsion and shock.”

“The gravity of this call is all the more pronounced when coming from the minister in charge of law and justice,” the statement read. “Israel has turned to Jordan for explanations, and made clear its expectation that the convicted murderer bear the punishment imposed on him by the Jordanian justice system.”

Israeli Embassy spokeswoman Merav Horsandi said it “is difficult for us to comprehend how there are people who support the release of a cold-blooded murderer of young children,” adding that an early release would contradict the spirit of the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries.

“Israel cannot imagine a situation in which such a vile murderer will be set free by Jordan,” Horsandi said. Monday’s protest outside Mjali’s office was organized by Daqamseh’s family. The minister joined the protesters, saying he was participating in his capacity as the soldier’s former lawyer.“I’m committed to be here with you as his lawyer,” Mjali told the cheering group.

Mjali was appointed in a government shakeup last week in the wake of protests inspired by the Egyptian uprising. The protests ushered in a broad-based cabinet pledging greater democratic freedoms, including the rights of assembly and speech. He said on Monday he joined the cabinet because he wants to see greater freedom of speech in Jordan. It was not immediately clear if his appearance at Monday’s protest would have repercussions.