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King orders release of jailed protesters

By Taylor Luck - Dec 10,2012 - Last updated at Dec 10,2012

AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah directed authorities on Monday to release over 100 jailed protesters, ending their month-long detention.

The Monarch directed the government to release 116 citizens detained for their alleged participation in, at-times, violent protests over rising fuel prices last month.

According to the Jordan News Agency, Petra, the decision excludes 13 detainees who are facing charges of criminal conspiracy, vandalism and illegal detention of people for their actions during the wave of riots.

A government decision in November to lift fuel subsidies and the subsequent increase in fuel prices sparked protests, riots and acts of vandalism in the Kingdom that resulted in over 70 injuries and the deaths of one citizen and two police officers.

In a press statement, the government vowed to take “all legal measures” to comply with the directives, stressing its respect for “peaceful movements” expressing their demands within the boundaries of the law.

During a meeting with political party representatives, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said the government respects popular movements that work within the constitutional limits and abide by the Kingdom’s laws, adding that some of the 13 who remain in custody have been previously convicted of other crimes, Petra reported.

“The freedoms of expression and assembly are guaranteed under the Constitution as basic civil rights and pillars of reform in general, particularly political reform,” Government Spokesperson Samih Maaytah said in a press statement.

The detainees remained in custody as of late Monday, with official sources expecting their release late Tuesday.

While welcoming the pardon, activists expressed “disappointment” over what they claimed as ongoing “martial law policies” towards protesters.

“It is unfortunate that it takes a Royal Decree to guarantee the freedom of these men and women and recognise their right to protest peacefully,” said Mamoun Harassis, the defence attorney for the bulk of the detainees.

Officials had referred some 125 protesters to the State Security Court, where they faced charges of “illegal assembly”, slandering the Monarch and “undermining the political regime” — offences that could have earned each detainee up to 10 years in prison.

Among the detainees are 45 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan’s largest political force, as well as Emad Abu Hattab, a senior leader of the Islamic Action Front, the Brotherhood’s political arm.

The detentions sparked a wave of demonstrations urging the protesters’ release, with relatives and activists hosting sit-ins at the Prime Ministry, the State Security Court and the UN headquarters in recent weeks.

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