Jordan: dismissal of the minister of interior

Summary: the King changes the interior minister in an apparently conciliatory move. Training Syrian rebels in Jordan – Syria objects.

The southern Jordanian city of Ma’an is part of Jordan’s traditionally loyal tribal heartland, but it is poor and remote and has become a trouble spot both for crime and for sympathy with extremist groups including IS. A report in the Abu Dhabi The National on 18 May gives some background, including the story of one family which has been in conflict with the security forces and reportedly attempted to provoke them by raising an IS flag. A police battalion are said to have used excessive force in a manhunt, included demolishing houses in Ma’an and terrorising women and children, but to have failed to make arrests. The report also refers to the suspicious death in custody of a nineteen-year-old arrested on drugs charges in Irbid in northern Jordan, also part of the tribal heartland. On 18 May King Abdullah II “accepted the resignation” of the minister of interior Husain al-Majali and two police chiefs, citing “lack of coordination… over issues concerning citizens’ security and stability.” According to the head of Ma’an municipality “After the resignations, people are happy in Ma’an.” According to reports on social media, residents distributed sweets and there were marches in support of the king.

Yesterday 19 May Salama Hammad was appointed minister of interior. Aged 71, he was minister of the interior from 1993 to 1996. According to the Jordan Times he is known for administering the landmark 1989 parliamentary elections when he was secretary general of the interior ministry.

85 British soldiers are reported to be helping the US Army in Jordan to train a Syrian rebel force in line with an announcement by the UK Defence Secretary in March The BBC reports that18 countries including the US have been staging drills and other military manoeuvres in Jordan in preparation for a counter offensive on Ramadi, now held by IS.

On 18 May Syria issued a “blistering criticism” accusing Jordan in letters to the UN of exacerbating the suffering of the Syrian people by supporting terror organisations in violation of the UN Charter, allowing them to take over border crossings and establish training camps for terrorists on its land, adding that it had recently facilitated the entry of thousands of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists to Busra al-Sham city in Daraa province. A Jordanian spokesman dismissed the criticisms, restating Jordan’s commitment to a political solution for Syria’s problems, adding that “his country was hosting almost 1.5 million Syrian refugees at a cost of $2.9 billion a year.”

Parliament will meet in “extraordinary session” on 1 June. Its agenda is limited and will be mainly technical, but the Jordan Times expects a new election law ” the core legislative piece in the political reform drive” to be discussed.

The article below is from the Beirut Daily Star.

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Celebrations in Jordan over resignation of minister

AMMAN, May. 19, 2015: The mayor of the tense Jordanian tribal city of Maan says hundreds of residents took to the street to celebrate the resignation of the country’s interior minister over what they consider heavy-handed tactics by the security forces.

Mayor Ali Khattab said Monday that celebrations erupted after Hussein Majali resigned Sunday, apparently as part of a high-level shakeup.

Two officials told Reuters that King Abdullah accepted the resignation of Majali and a decision was taken to retire the heads of the country’s police and gendarme over reported rights abuses in prisons and the mishandling of a crackdown in the south of the country, officials said Sunday.

Security forces have repeatedly raided Maan, which made headlines last year with support rallies for ISIS.

One official said the reasons for their dismissals were the heavy-handed police crackdown in the poor, southern tribal city of Maan and the torture of a detainee during interrogation that led to his death.

Khattab said large numbers of security forces backed by armored vehicles and helicopters tried to arrest two fugitives in Maan over the weekend. He says the raid upset residents but failed to catch the fugitives.

Celebratory shots were fired in Maan after the news of the dismissal of Majali, whose forces’ tough handling of several suspects wanted on criminal offenses had led to widespread local anger in recent days.

Although civil unrest is rare in Jordan, there have been violent protests in Maan in recent years, often reflecting Bedouin resentment against the government as well as tribal rivalries. Salafi fundamentalists also are active there.

The death in custody earlier this month of a member of a prominent tribe in northern Jordan – he allegedly was beaten to death after being arrested on drug charges – triggered allegations of police brutality and led to threats of reprisals against authorities.

But human rights activists said the dismissals of several police officers implicated in the death of the 21-year-old suspect were not enough to assuage public opinion over the latest case of alleged police abuse.

Jordan’s rulers are careful not to anger tribes who provide most of the manpower for the country’s security forces and form the bedrock of support for the Hashemite monarchy.

Majali was criticized for threatening to disrupt a peaceful rally planned by Jordan’s largest political party, the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, on the pretext that it was not licensed. The Islamist party eventually decided not to hold the event to avoid a confrontation.

Some hard-liners within the police, emboldened by Jordan’s participation in the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS militants in Syria, also have been arresting people on the pretext of fighting extremists.

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