Last updated: 23 August, 2012

Jordan pulls three Paralympians out over sex allegations

Jordan’s Paralympic committee said on Thursday it has withdrawn three members from a pre-Games training camp in Northern Ireland over charges of sex offences.

“The three athletes charged with a variety of offences in Northern Ireland will not be competing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and will return home to Amman on Thursday,” the committee said in a statement to AFP.

Two wheelchair-using power-lifters and their trainer appeared at Coleraine Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday facing charges including sexual assault and voyeurism.

The committee said “it would be inappropriate for the accused athletes to compete at Games.”

“We have a zero tolerance on any misconduct and will continue to work closely with the Northern Ireland authorities to assist in their investigation,” it added.

The three, released Wednesday on combined bail and sureties of £5,500 ($8,700, 6,970 euros) each, “will be returned to court in Northern Ireland on October 18,” according to the statement.

“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.”

A senior Jordanian government official has denied reports that Jordan’s King Abdullah II had personally intervened in the case, although he said the monarch was “concerned” by the allegations.

“If proven, these actions are condemned by Jordan, which fully backs the court. But at the same time, the kingdom supports Jordanian citizens inside the country and abroad,” the official told AFP on Wednesday.

The men were arrested on Monday in the town of Antrim, northwest of Belfast, after three women lodged complaints.

Power lifter 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 team’s training centre at the Antrim Forum leisure center.

Police said he was identified by a 14-year-old girl who claimed that she posed for photos with him before he groped her between the legs in Antrim town centre.

The same day, a girl aged 16 said she was walking along the river path beside the team’s training base at Antrim Forum with a friend when their path was blocked by the three accused.

Police alleged that the girl was pushed by one of the men towards Omar, who placed his arm around her waist and tightened his grip, but then she ran away.