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Hundreds demand release of jailed protesters

By Taylor Luck - Dec 15,2012 - Last updated at Dec 15,2012

AMMAN — Hundreds of activists rallied across Jordan on Friday to demand the release of dozens of jailed protesters amid government pledges to release the detainees.

Under the slogan “Friday of Freedoms”, leftists, Islamists and independent activist demonstrated in Amman and five outlying governorates against the ongoing detention of dozens of people arrested for their participation in, at times, violent protests opposing the government’s decision to lift fuel subsidies last month.

In a rally following noon prayers, some 400 citizens rallied in downtown Amman in an Islamist-led protest denouncing the “police state approach” towards protesters.

Holding of photographs of various detainees who remain in prison, the participants chanted: “The State Security Court is standing between us and reform,” and “The Jordanian people are the red line.”

They also urged the government to reverse a November 13 decision to lift fuel subsidies that led to an immediate rise in the prices of petrol, diesel and gas and sparked a wave of nationwide demonstrations and riots, which led to the destruction of public property, over 70 injuries and the deaths of one citizen and two policemen.

Also on Friday, dozens rallied in Karak, Tafileh, Theeban, Maan and Irbid to urge authorities to release the detainees and tackle rising prices of basic commodities.

During the peaceful demonstrations, participants criticised the detention of the protesters, chanting: “We demand freedoms and they respond with arrests.”

The Friday demonstrations were held amid pledges by the government to fulfil Royal directives issued last week calling for the release of the 116 protesters.

More than 50 of the detainees were released last Tuesday, with activists and officials expecting the remainder to be released early this week.

Among the detainees are 46 members of the Muslim Brotherhood — Jordan’s largest political movement — including Emad Abu Hattab, a senior leader of the movement’s political arm, the Islamic Action Front.

As of Saturday, Abu Hattab and a bulk of the Islamist activists remained in prison.

The decision excludes 13 detainees facing charges of vandalism and “criminal conspiracy” for their actions during the riots.

The authorities have repeatedly underlined their respect of citizens’ “constitutional and natural human rights” to free expression and assembly, stressing that the state will prosecute those who take part in violent protests. 

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