AMMAN - A Jordanian soldier who was convicted of killing seven Israeli school girls two decades ago has been released from prison after serving his sentence, family sources said on Sunday.
They said Ahmad Daqamseh was now in his family home in the village of Ibdir near the city of Irbid in northern Jordan.
In July 1997, a five-member Jordanian military tribunal found Corporal Daqamseh guilty of opening fire at a group of 80 seventh and eight grade schoolgirls from AMIT Fuerst School in Bet Shemesh and killing seven of them before soldiers seized him and rushed to help the victims.
The incident took place on March 13 of that year during a school field trip to the "Island of Peace," a joint Israeli-Jordanian tourist resort.
Daqamseh would have faced the death penalty but the tribunal said he was mentally unstable and was sentenced to a life sentence which is equivalent to 20 years under Jordanian law.
A few days after the incident, the late King Hussein personally apologized for the incident, traveling to Israel to visit and pay his respects to the families of the slain girls.
Daqamseh became a hero to a strong opposition movement led by Islamists and nationalists who vehemently opposed the country's peace treaty with Israel in 1994.
In 2011, then-Jordanian Justice Minister Hussein Mjali called Daqamseh a hero and said that "if a Jew murdered Arabs, they [the Israelis] would build him a statue." Mjali served as Daqamseh's defense attorney in the 1997 trial.
Daqamseh has never expressed remorse for the massacre. In a 2004 interview with Jordanian weekly a-Shahed
, he said that "if I could return to that moment, I would behave exactly the same way. Every day that passes, I grow stronger in the belief that what I did was my duty."
He blamed the girls' behavior for the killing, saying that they had interrupted his prayers with clapping and whistling.
The massacre ended abruptly when Daqamseh's M-16 rifle jammed.