Jordan opposition demands PM`s ouster after unrest

Last Updated: Sunday, March 27, 2011 - 09:05

Amman: Jordan`s Islamist opposition, leftists and trade unions on Saturday demanded the ouster of Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit, blaming him for violence that has killed one person and injured 160.

"The Islamist movement demands the resignation, or the sacking, of the government and the formation of a national unity and reformist government that would win the people`s trust and protect their lives," said Hamzah Mansur, chief of the powerful Islamic Action Front (IAF).

"Any government that kills citizens loses legitimacy," he told a news conference.

Youth movements, who like the Islamists have been demanding reforms, backed the call.

"We demand the prime minister and intelligence chief (Mohammed Raqqad) quit," Firas Mahadin of the March 24 youth group told reporters. "We have reached a point of no return."

His father, Muwaffaq Mahadin, a prominent leftist writer, warned "the country is heading towards a civil war and the government is responsible for that because it wants to avoid reforms."

The rift between the government and Islamists widened after the Premier on Friday accused the main opposition movement of spreading "chaos" following the death of a protester, the first in the kingdom.

"We have invited the Muslim Brotherhood for talks, away from protests and demonstrations, but apparently they have an agenda to create chaos in the country," Bakhit said on television.

Mansur accused the government of "crimes against humanity."

"The government of Maaruf Bakhit has given proof that it does not believe in reform, it is a government with blood on its hands which today has committed crimes against humanity," he said.

The IAF is the political arm of the Brotherhood which found protection in Jordan in the 1950s and 1980s when its members were persecuted in Egypt and Syria.

Adopting an unusually strident tone, Bakhit accused the Brotherhood of "taking orders from the Muslim brothers in Egypt and Syria”.

The Islamists rejected his accusations.

"We always hear such lies from time to time. We are leaders and we have the right to consult with our brothers in Damascus about the Palestinian cause," Brotherhood leader Hammam Said told reporters.

"We do not take orders or instructions from anybody."

But in a conciliatory tone Bakhit later said the Islamists are "a segment of society and the government is ready for dialogue whenever they wish”.

"We respect the opposition. We tried our best to contact the Islamist leaders on Thursday to avert sedition, but they preferred escalation," the state-run Petra news agency quoted him as telling senators at a meeting.

Friday`s violence in Amman, the first since protests erupted three months ago, left one person dead and 160 wounded, according to police.

"Around 83 policemen and 77 civilians have been injured and hospitalised," police chief Hussein Majali told a joint press conference with Interior Minister Saad Srur.

Srur said that authorities were questioning 21 people who were arrested in connection with Friday`s violence.

Meanwhile, the son of the protester killed on Friday said he will not be buried before Srur quits.

"We refuse to take his body from the morgue and we will not bury him unless we receive an official apology and the interior minister resigns," Khairy Saad Jamil`s son, Nasser, 34, said.

He said his father died after "receiving several blows to his body" but the state coroner said an autopsy proved he died of heart failure.

"He suffered from cardiomegaly (heart enlargement) and arteriosclerosis," said Yusef Mohammad Ibrahim. "There were knee scratches and two missing teeth, but no traces of blows."

Friday`s clashes erupted when about 200 government supporters threw stones at 2,000 young demonstrators, including the Islamists. Also on Friday, police broke up a protest camp set up near the interior ministry.

"The principles of democracy and freedom of expression have been violated. An independent and neutral probe into the attack against protesters is needed," said the National Centre for Human Rights, whose board is appointed by the government.

The government has formed a national dialogue commission -- which has been rejected by the Islamists -- but 15 of its members have quit saying authorities were not serious about reforms.

Bureau Report



First Published: Sunday, March 27, 2011 - 09:05

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