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Two Jordanian Islamists stripped of their status as lawmakers

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Tuesday October 17, 2006

Amman- Two Islamist deputies jailed for extending condolences to the family of the slain al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, have been informed by the lower house secretariat that they had lost their seats after an appeals court confirmed their jail terms, parliamentary sources said Tuesday. "The secretariat of the House of Represenatives has sent a letter to Mohammad Abu Fares and Ali Abul Sukkar officially informing them they were no longer members of the house," the sources added.

The sources said they expected the letter to spark a legal and political controversy, noting that the 13-month jail terms passed on the two members of the Islamic Action Front (IAF) had been challenged by prominent judicial figures in the country.

"Abu Fares and Abul Sukkar are still members of the lower house and enjoy all constitutional rights (due) ... other lawmakers," IAF lawyer Zuhair Abul Ragheb said.

"Therefore, they should be invited to attend the sessions when the house reconvenes after the summer recess," he added.

The country's Supreme Council for the Interpretation of the Constitution recently ruled that both men had lost their seats at the lower house.

The Council cited a constitutional article that provides for any deputy to lose his seat if he received a jail term exceeding one year on "non-political charges."

The two legislators were arrested along with other two IAF deputies on June 11, two days after they extended condolences to the family of al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a US airstrike in Iraq on June 7.

The other two MPs were freed later for of lack of evidence to sue them, but Abu Fares and Abul Sukkar were condemned because they praised al-Zarqawi as a "martyr."

The remark angered the families of 60 civilians who were killed in Amman's triple suicide bombings last November. The blasts were claimed by al-Zarqawi's group, the Jihad and Tawhid Brigades.

The IAF and its parent group, the Muslim Brotherhood, have dismissed the verdicts as part of the government's tactics to distort the image of Islamists and undermine their chances in next year's elections.

The two condemned lawmakers were freed earlier this month after King Abdullah II pardoned them in a special amnesty.

The Brotherhood's leader Salem Falahat was quoted by local newspapers Tuesday as urging the monarch to extend the amnesty so as to allow the two men to retain their seats in parliament.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency