Islamist MPs Get Sentence Reduced

The two IAF MP’s that glorified Zarqawi as a martyr in June and were sentenced rather harshly by the State Security Court recently have received reduced sentences through an appeal at the Cassation Court. Both sentences of 2 and 1.5 years have been reduced to 13 months and 100 JD fines. The MPs were seen as condoning terrorism and back in June this sparked several protests from thousands in the kingdom to condemn them.

The defense team, the IAF and the Muslim Brotherhood called the jailings as “politically motivated”.

My recent post on the subject drew several interesting comments that represented a split between those who agree on the jailings and those who don’t. For the most part the consensus seems to be that they should be punished for what they said but not in this manner.

In that same post I wondered about social and political ramifications. The latter, as expected, is showing its head in the extraordinary session of Parliament that began yesterday.

Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit started things up with a speech in which he said the comments made by the MPs concerning Zarqawi had offended Jordanians in general and especially the family members of the victims who complained to the authorities.

Next up at bat was head of the IAF bloc, Azzam Hneidi, who responded to the Prime Minister by affirming the IAF condemns terrorism and has a commitment to national security however the jailings were politically motivated. He went on to demand they be released and a freezing of all legal actions against them so they could practice their parliamentary roles.

Parliamentary roles?

Some MPs argued that by being convicted the two MPs have lost their membership in the lower house while other MPs claimed that expulsion required a two-thirds majority.

All the IAF MPs interviewed by the Jordan Times said they would resign if the issue was not resolved.

If the IAF does resign its seats from the lower house will push the Parliament and indeed the political system into a significant crisis.

Honestly this situation was mishandled from the beginning. In my opinion the outcome would have been much more positive had the relatives of the victims launched a civil suit against the MPs or at the very least an official petition calling for them to step down. It would have been viewed as the people holding their representatives accountable for the actions as opposed to the government eroding the IAF’s power in the lower house to ram controversial or reforming legislation through.

And these events will only strengthen the party socially and solidify its base, making reform an even more impossible task in the hands of the lower house.

The only silver lining of this has been the good timing (or bad however you want to look at it) to put the anti-terrorism bill on the table. This is a bill that needs to be debated and refined to its limits and angry IAF MPs, who have traditionally seen it as a law intended to go after them, may prove an asset here. There is no doubt that it will pass with some expected minor changes but these recent events might bring about the debate this bill deserves especially with the Parliament being in such a weakened position when it comes to opposing the government these days. The language of the bill is still ambiguous in my opinion and laws that leave much of the determinations up to the perceptions of the authorities are problematic, to say the least.

Your Two Piasters: