Jordanian Jail Clashes!

AlJazeera reports that clashes have erupted in two Jordanian jails. It is reported that there is one death and 9 injuries.

Apparently the man who was part of the assassination of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in 2001 was being transported or taken somewhere and other prisoners refused to let that happen.

AlJazeera claims Salem Bin Suweid, a prisoner in one of the jails called them up to report it early in the morning, claiming that the security attacking them was in the hundreds, using smoke bombs. Water hoses were also used, injuring several prisoners to the head and face.

The Jordanian government has so far denied these events have taken place. [source] (Arabic)

I’ll try and update this information as it comes. It will probably be subject to change as details emerge.

UPDATE 1: Rueters has reported the following:

“There have been several wounded when troops tried to storm into Jweida’s large cell where Islamists are held, to transfer detainees, and the inmates resisted by force,” said one security source who declined to elaborate.

Rioting then broke out in two other prisons, Swaqa and Qafqafa, where more than 150 political detainees are held, and there were unconfirmed reports from prison sources of one dead inmate during those clashes.

…Among the prisoners in Jweida are Azmi Jayousi, a Jordanian aide of the al-Qaeda leader in
Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was sentenced to death this month over his lead role in plotting chemical attacks in 2004.

Swaqa prison is where Libyan Salem bin Suweid is serving a death term passed in 2004 for murdering U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman in October 2002. [source]

This is definitely going to bring up controversial issues such as abuse in jails as well as political prisoners.


Jordanian inmates loyal to al Qaeda on Wednesday took a prison chief and several police officers hostage during clashes with security forces at three Amman prisons, officials said.

They said the inmates were holding up to eight police officers and had issued demands including the release of a woman accused of trying to blow herself up in simultaneous attacks on three hotels in Amman last year that killed more than 50 people. [source]


Interior Minister Eid Al Fayez said that resorting to force to end riot of a number of prisoners at the Juweidah Correctional Center will be the last solution.

However, the minister said in a statement to Jordan News Agency that negotiations with the prisoners are still going on to free eight police officers who were inside the prison when the riot took place.

“The prisoners are still holding five police officers as hostages and we are negotiating with them to end the riot,” Al Fayez added. The minister said that the prisoners had demanded that a number of inmates be transferred to their prison and retry some of them before civil courts. [source]


Rioting prisoners in Jordan have released all seven of their police hostages, including the head of the prison service, officials said.

Maj Gen Awwad al-Khalidi, the assistant director-general of the Public Security Directorate said the crisis was “over”.

…The inmates, who are all suspects in state security cases or prisoners under sentence of death, demanded they all be housed in the same facility.

The Jordanian Public Security Directorate said their request was against regulations and that inmates are normally distributed throughout Jordan’s prisons according to set procedures and criteria.

The prisoners, upon being told this, managed to close the prison’s main gates and lock police officers and negotiators in with them.

Islamist inmates at two other prisons, Suwaiqa and Qafqafa, also rioted in response to the developments at Juwaida, but Jordanian officials said they were “minor disturbances” that were quickly brought under control. [source]


  • Nas: Do you think that murderers and terrorists are political prisoners? They definately are not. Moreover, if these events happened in more than one place, then one should conclude that they were coordinated and not spontaneous. If this conclusion is correct, I would hesitate to conclude that it has to do with prisoner abuse, as you suggest.

  • Big K, “Do you think that murderers and terrorists are political prisoners?” I never said that they were. There are many prisoners in prison for different reasons. While we might be able to say that most have done something to be there, we cannot ignore the fact that many were never tried.

    as for the spontaniety, yes it does suggest coordination, whether that means prisoner abuse isnt for sure. it might suggest planning between islamist prisoners who seem to be at the center of this thing at this point in time.

  • thanks for this, linked the stuff on my page. Whatever their crimes, people should have fair trials, which are not exactly “all over the place” in Jordan… Nice blog btw.

  • A question is raised: Do you think that murderers and terrorists are political prisoners?

    This poses three further questions:
    1.- What’s the definition of murderer?
    2.- What’s the definition of terrorist?
    3.- What’s the definition of political prisoner?

    Before you think this is sofistry, consider that every one of these three questions has evolved through time, and in some respects, it’s a matter of judgement (political, ethical, otherwise). Murder is a loaded word. If I kill in self-defense, for instance, I may not be regarded a murderer, but I’ve killed someone. If we take a biased, but relevant, source of ethical judgement, one of the Ten commandements says “You shall not kill” — and not “You shall not murder”. Typically, every government has always disregarded it, when it comes to a war. Soldiers are specifically trained to kill other human beings, whatever their rationale.
    The German army in World War II had a sentence “Gott mit uns” written all over their garments. (That means “God is with us”). But most armies have an equivalent notion inscribed in their mind, whatever their definition of “god” might be — including secular armies (like the Soviet Red army), which did it for the good of the working class, or the Soviet state, or whatever.
    Terrorism is nowadays regarded as bad. However, during WWII, the OFFICIAL policy of both the British and US governments was that their massive bombardements over Germany and Japan and Italy were intended to terrorize the populace, to undermine support for their own governments.
    And finally the idea that if someone is declared a political prisoner, this is immediately some kind of endorsement for their views/actions, is simply preposterous.
    What it means it that the main reason for their being jailed is the political views they support. Most governments regard the advocacy of certain ideas as a criminal act. And in many cases this is specifically supported by legislation to that effect. Whether or not they also did something which can be otherwise regarded as “criminal” is a moot point.
    For example, throughout history, the advocacy of certain ideas has been regarded as a criminal act in and of itself — how many people have been put on a cross or burned to the stake, or simply jailed because of their support for “non-conformist” viewpoints?
    Where they political prisoners? Does it mean that those who went against them were wrong?
    I’d answer “mostly, yes” to both questions. But that’s not to say, that it’s ok to advocate every idea, and that any form of suppression of those who argue a particular idea is always wrong and anti-democratic.

Your Two Piasters: