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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Jordan to put on trial three Islamist deputies

AMMAN, July 11 (Reuters) - Jordan's state security prosecutor is to put three Islamist deputies on trial in a military court a month after they were detained on charges of stirring up national tensions, officials said on Tuesday.

Mohammad Abu Faris, Ali Abu al-Sukar and Jaafar Hourani along with another Islamist deputy were arrested on June 12, a day after they visited the family of Jordanian born al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to pay their respects after his death.

The four deputies, all prominent members of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, were among hundreds who went to a tent set up by Zarqawi's family in his birthplace to welcome hundreds of sympathisers.

The government said the visit was an affront to the feelings of most Jordanians, including relatives of 60 people killed in three hotel bombings in the capital Amman last November that Zarqawi claimed to have ordered.

The Islamists said the deputies' visit to Zarqawi's family was in line with Muslim tradition and did not mean they supported indiscriminate killings of civilians.

They accused the government of using the visit as a pretext to step up a state campaign to curb the organisation's growing influence.

The government has this week pushed legal steps to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood's main charity, which dispenses millions of dollars of aid to needy Jordanians that officials says is behind the influence of the Islamists.

The state security prosecutor dropped charges against a fourth Islamist deputy, Ibrahim al-Mashoukhi, and ordered his release for lack of evidence.

The government has been alarmed by the mainstream Islamist movement's more vocal role after its ally, the militant Palestinian movement Hamas, swept to power in last January's Palestinian elections.

The IAF, with 17 deputies in the 110-member assembly, has called for sweeping political reforms, including an elected government and changes in an electoral law that works against their chances of gaining political control.
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