Opposition leader faces Jordanian military court for role in demos

Photo: Opposition leader faces Jordanian military court for role in demos  / Arab World

Jordanian authorities referred on Sunday a leading Muslim Brotherhood official to a military court for his alleged role in nationwide demonstrations against fuel price hikes amid a security campaign that has resulted in the arrest of dozens of Islamists, DPA reported.

According to a judicial source, Emad Abu Hattab, a senior leader of the Brotherhood's political branch, the Islamic Action Front, was referred to the country's military State Security Court on charges of "undermining the regime."

Abu Hattab's referral is linked to allegations of his involvement in a series of nationwide protests against rising fuel prices that have gripped Jordan over the past two weeks and saw some participants call for "regime change" - a criminal offence which, under Jordanian law, carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

A vast majority of political groups, including the Brotherhood, have distanced themselves from the calls for regime change, insisting on peaceful democratic reforms that demand a transfer to voters of the king's power to form governments.

Abu Hattab's referral comes amid an ongoing security crackdown, which activists claim has resulted in the arrest of 200 protesters - including 46 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan's largest political force.

The Brotherhood denounced the "provocative" arrests, warning of a "serious fallout" and rising anger in the streets should authorities fail to release the detainees.

"This provocative move is a clear violation of citizens' basic rights to freedom of expression," said Ali Abu Sukar, president of the Islamic Action Front's governing Shura Council.

"If the regime is serious in wanting the protest movement to remain peaceful, it will release Abu Hattab and all other political prisoners immediately."

A series of at times violent protests erupted within an hour of a government decision to raise fuel subsidies on November 13, leading to some 200 arrests and resulting in more than 70 injuries and one death in their first 72 hours.

Although the bulk of the violent protests were led by citizens with no political affiliation, Jordan has accused the Brotherhood of "inciting" the violent demonstrations.

The Brotherhood has denied the claims, saying that its offices were targeted during the rioting, along with government property.

Calls for regime change mark a dramatic escalation in the demands of Jordan's 22-month-old protest movement, which had previously restricted its calls to those for "regime reform."

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