Entries in Jordan (18)


Muslim Cleric Avoids Deportation to Jordan

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A Muslim cleric who has spent most of the last 10 years in custody in the U.K. was released on bail Tuesday after a court ruled he might not be able to get a fair trial if deported to Jordan, where he faces terrorism charges.

The court ruled in favor of Abu Qatada’s appeal against deportation after determining that witness evidence obtained by torture may be used against him at trial.

Qatada was charged with allegedly conspiring to target Western and Israeli targets with explosives in Jordan in 1998 and 1999.  He was found guilty of terrorism charges in abstentia in 1999.

Security experts say Qatada is a spiritual leader who has spread support for suicide bombings.

Both the British government and the Jordanian government expressed disappointment with the court’s ruling.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said his government would “take all the steps necessary to ensure that Qatada does not present a risk to national security.”

Legal experts say Qatada’s deportation remains unlikely as long as the possibility of witnesses providing evidence obtained by torture remains.  The case is expected to continue for years.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Nationwide Protest Break Out in Jordan over Fuel Price Hike

Jordan Pix/ Getty Images(AMMAN, Jordan) -- Protests erupted in Amman and other cities around Jordan Tuesday after officials announced a fuel price hike.  The government said the hike is necessary to help reduce the nation's $5 billion deficit, Agence France-Presse reports.

Under the new price bump, gas is set to increase 15 percent, or $0.53 per gallon. The hike will include a more than 50 percent increase on cooking gas.

Queen Noor, stepmother to King Abdullah II, tweeted Tuesday: "Praying that all in #Jordan keep safe during these difficult times. Let's try 2 help each other through."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Jordan Foils ‘Major Terrorist Plot’

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(AMMAN, Jordan) -- Eleven men have been arrested by Jordanian intelligence services which accuse them of planning a “major terrorist plot” involving an attack on shopping centers, residential buildings and foreigners, including diplomats.

Jordan’s state-run news agency, Petra, reported on Sunday that the plan was uncovered months ago during its early stages as the accused terrorists carried out surveillance on potential targets and armed themselves with explosives, guns and mortars.

The men were described as “terrorists associated with the ideology of Al Qaeda.”  Photos posted on the agency’s website showed four of the men with the bushy beards often associated with Salafism, an ultra-conservative brand of Islam.

The plot, it was reported, was dubbed “9/11 (2),” and would start with an attack on diplomats in hotels.  Then, two shopping malls would be bombed, followed by other attacks using TNT and “new types of explosives to be used for the first time.” 

Some of the weapons allegedly came from Syria and the accused were said to have consulted with al Qaeda explosives experts over the Internet.  Suicide bombers and car bombs would also be used.

The Jordanian authorities said the group was “under constant surveillance at every stage” and that they had started choosing members to carry out the attacks.

“Their objective was to create a highly destructive explosive that would cause the highest number of casualties and extensive physical damage,” said the statement on the Petra website.

Jordan has not seen the protests and violence that many of its neighbors have during the so-called Arab Spring, but discontent with the ruling monarchy is growing.  Earlier this month, King Abdullah II dissolved parliament and new elections have been announced for January.  Around 15,000 people, most of them supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, called for reform on Oct. 5 in the biggest demonstrations the country has seen since the Arab Spring began.

Jordan has also taken more than 200,000 Syrian refugees, with that number expected to grow dramatically in the coming months as the violence in Syria continues unabated.  A second refugee camp is due to open to cope with the influx.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Panetta Confirms US Military Task Force in Jordan

DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo(BRUSSELS) -- In Brussels, Defense Secretary Panetta confirmed that a U.S. military task force of 150 personnel has been operating in Jordan helping that country set up a headquarters to assist with the humanitarian fallout from Syria as well as any other possibilities that might emerge.

"We have a group of our forces there working to help build a headquarters there and to insure that we make the relationship between the United States and Jordan a strong one so that we can deal with all the possible consequences of what's happening in Syria," Panetta said at a news conference Wednesday when asked about a New York Times report that first broke the existence of the task force.

Two U.S. officials say teams of military personnel arrived earlier this year and said reports saying the force had anything to do with troops left behind from an annual U.S.-Jordanian military exercise conducted in May are incorrect.

They are located at a Jordanian base north of Amman and are helping Jordan plan for the estimated 200,000 Syrian refugees that have flooded into the country to escape the fighting in Syria.

A Defense Department spokesman says, “We have been working closely with our Jordanian partners on a variety of issues related to Syria for some time now. We both agree that increased cooperation and more detailed planning are necessary in order to respond to the severe consequences of the Assad regime's brutality.”

He adds that the refugees are a specific concern as is “the security of Syria's CBW stockpiles.  As you know, we plan for a variety of contingencies, both unilaterally and with our regional partners.”

The spokesman said “as far as support to Jordan, we have provided medical kits, water tanks, and other forms of humanitarian aid to help Jordanians assist Syrian refugees fleeing into their country.”

He finished up by saying, “As we've seen over the last week with the situation on the Syria-Turkey border, there are various scenarios in which the Assad regime's reprehensible actions could affect our partners in the region. For this reason and many others, we are always working on our contingency planning, for which we consult with our friends. “

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Former Syrian PM Makes First Public Comments Since Defection

LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images(AMMAN, Jordan) -- Speaking for the first time since he defected to Jordan last week, Syria's former prime minister announced on Tuesday he's joined the rebels in their 17-month quest to out President Bashar al-Assad.

"We will do everything we can to liberate these people and to, for the return of the displaced to their homes -- dignified, victorious on the land of Syria.  Long live Syria," Riad Hijab said through a translator.

Since the conflict between government and rebel forces began in March 2011, an estimated 20,000 people have died in Syria.

Hijab urged other top officials to join the rebel cause and said Assad's days are numbered.

"The regime is collapsing -- morally, financially, economically and military broken," he said.

He also thanked Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey -- supporters of the country's Sunni insurgency -- for helping the rebels take on the regime.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab Defects to Jordan

LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab has defected to Jordan with his family, his spokesman announced on Monday.

In a statement read by his spokesman Mohammed el-Etri on Al Jazeera, Hijab said, "I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution.  I announce that I am from today a soldier in this blessed revolution."

El-Etri told Al Jazeera the defection had been planned for months and was carried out in collaboration with the Free Syrian Army.

The news comes after Syrian state TV reported Hijab had been fired from his post after assuming the position just two months ago.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian Fighter Pilot Defects, Asks for Asylum in Jordan

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CAIRO) -- A Syrian fighter pilot has defected and requested political asylum in neighboring Jordan.

The colonel was flying a training mission in southern Syria in a MiG-21 Thursday morning when he went missing.  Syria's state news agency reported that it lost contact with the pilot before Jordanian officials confirmed the pilot landed at a military base in Mafraq, Jordan.  

The Syrian opposition claimed to have encouraged him to defect.  It's the first defection of its kind in the country's 16-month uprising that has already claimed between 12,000 and 14,000 lives.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Says Violence in Syria Is ‘Unacceptable’

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Syrian regime’s bloody crackdown was at the top of the agenda Tuesday in President Obama’s Oval Office meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah.

“We’re continuing to see unacceptable levels of violence inside that country, and so we will continue to consult very closely with Jordan to create the kind of international pressure and environment that encourages the current Syrian regime to step aside so that a more democratic process of transition can take place inside of Syria,” Obama said following the meeting.

The president thanked Abdullah for being the first Arab leader to publicly call on Syria’s President Assad to step down.

“I want to thank him for his willingness to stand up. As a consequence, Jordan has been part of an overall Arab League effort to encourage this sort of peaceful transition inside of Syria that is needed,” he said.

Obama also pledged to work closely with Abdullah to encourage the Palestinians and Israelis to negotiate a peace accord “in a serious fashion.”

“Although this is still in the very early stages, we have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that we can bring the Israelis and Palestinians out of the impasse that we’re facing,” Abdullah said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iran Backs Assad Regime in Syria

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- One day after Jordan's King Abdullah recommended Syrian President Bashar Assad should step down in the midst of a brutal crackdown against an anti-government uprising, top Iranian official Dr. Javad Larijani said Iran continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with its close ally and neighbor.

"Future relations with Syria will be as strong with Iran as they are now," he said.

Larijani, the Berkeley-educated Secretary General of Iran's High Council for Human Rights and advisor to the Chief Justice of Iran, blamed the U.S. and Israel for sparking violence. Iran, he said, is "against using military force to interfere in this process in the region. The main objective is not helping Syria but helping Israel. The West should leave Syrian affairs to themselves."

Larijani had criticism for his own government as well, however. As an advisor to the judiciary and head of Iran's human rights council, he believes Iran executes too many people.

"I'm definitely not happy with the number of executions," he said. "I've been working hard on that but unfortunately didn't make progress."

He notes that 74 percent of executions in Iran are for drug-related crimes.

"Parliament has decided the law should be tough," said Larijani. "I do not agree with this law. It should be changed. If we change the law then 74 percent of executions will be dropped. The result of this law has not brought down trafficking or drug use."

Even Larijani's swipe at Iran, however, contained a rebuke for the West. He noted that most of those executed were involved in trafficking drugs to the West.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Jordanian Embassy in Damascus Attacked After King's Comments

LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS) -- One day after Jordanian King Abdullah II told the BBC Syrian President Assad should step down, the Jordanian embassy in Damascus was attacked.

About 100 demonstrators gathered outside the embassy, with three protesters scaling the embassy fence to take down the Jordanian flag.

Multiple embassies in Damascus were attacked after the Arab League voted Saturday to suspend Syria’s membership.

On Monday the Jordanian monarch made these remarks in an interview with the BBC:

“I believe, if I were in his shoes, I would step down,” King Abdullah told the BBC. “If Bashar has the interest of his country, he would step down, but he would also create an ability to reach out and start a new phase of Syrian political life.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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