Jordan: Protesters Released, Former MP Charged
In a meeting with the House of Commons in London, King Abdullah of Jordan stressed the important role Jordanian youth have to play in the reform process in his country. Abdullah expressing his desire to engage the youth in political actions and the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for January 23, 2013. ”You, the youth, have the responsibility to hold coming legislatures and parliamentary governments to account, judging them by the degree of their commitment to implementing their electoral platforms to address the problems and challenges you face,” Abdullah said. Meanwhile, the coalition monitoring the electoral process suggested “including an article in the campaign regulations pertaining to slogans, names and symbols used for the national lists,” as well as a ban on images of children in campaign posters and advertisements.
On December 10, Abdullah ordered the release of over 100 protesters jailed for participating in last month’s demonstrations over fuel prices. The pardons came after Abdullah met with tribal leaders, who said that the detentions violated the right to free expression. However, Information Minister Sameeh Maaytah said 13 detainees charged with criminal conspiracy and vandalism will not be released. Ann Harrison, Amnesty deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said ”though we are pleased 116 people are to be set free, unless this means there are wider human rights reforms planned then it really is too little, too late.”
Additionally, King Abdullah announced the formation of the Royal Committee for Enhancing National Integrity. The committee, headed by Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour and composed of public sector and civil society representatives, is tasked with reviewing the performance of monitoring agencies and diagnosing problems to enhance the reform process. Anti-Corruption Commission President Samih Bino said the formation of the committee showed King Abdullah’s “keenness to forge ahead with a sound reform process that meets national hopes and aspirations for enhancing the values of transparency and justice.” Additionally, at an award ceremony December 13, Ensour announced the government plans to launch a program to create “10,000 job opportunities” to achieve sustainable development.
In Irbid, two people were sentenced in abstentia to three months in prison for “manipulating” their districts’ electoral list. These are the first sentences to be issued under the new Elections Law. Meanwhile, former MP Yihya Saud has been charged by Amman’s prosecutor general “over his appearance at a press conference earlier this week in possession of what appeared to be thousands of voter identification cards.” Saud was quoted warning authorities of his intention to “burn the voter IDs” if the government proceeds with its rumored plan to hike electricity prices.