Today King Abdullah issued pardons for six jailed members of the Jordanian jihadist movement. The pardon was announced in a brief article on Petra, the state news agency. This announcement is a very interesting one, because of its timing and the nature of the announcement itself.
First, the timing. It comes on the heels of the King’s decision to release eighteen jailed protesters who called for the end of the monarchy, and right after eleven men were arrested for an Al-Qaeda-linked plot to assassinate Western diplomats and bomb shopping centers.
Second, the announcement itself. The article on the state news agency, Petra states simply that the King has directed the government to release six detainees, and gives their names: Mohammad Jamil Arabiyat, Mohammed Issa Du’mos, Mujahid Nabil Abu Harthiya, Ahmad Yousef Rayyan, Tareq Omar Hassan Zakarneh and Mustafa Yousef Siyam. It has nothing on what they were in prison for, no reason for the pardon, and indeed nothing at all about them other than their names.
An article released by Trend News Service includes more information. It says that they were members of the Jordanian jihadist movement accused (according to the movement’s attorney) of planning a bomb plot against an unnamed security officer in 2001. The jihadist movement confirmed their release, and said that most of its remaining prisoners (there were 54 prior to their release, and 48 detainees now) were being held without charges. According to the article, outside observers believe the King released the six due to pressure from their tribes.
Given the lack of information it is difficult to obtain answers about this. Why did they decide to release the six detainees now? Did the King succumb to tribal pressure? Is he attempting to appear conciliatory towards Islamists? There are no answers about this.
Given recent political turmoil in Jordan, is this another attempt by the King to appear conciliatory prior to an election the opposition has declared it is going to boycott? There are no answers here, and it appears that this may be yet another attempt to convince the people that Jordan is trying to reform when in reality nothing is happening.