Jordan authorities arrest former MP after ‘offensive’ remarks

Interior Minister Mazen al-Faraya confirmed the lawmaker’s arrest based on a memorandum issued by the State Security Court Prosecutor.
Friday 18/06/2021
A file picture shows Jordanian King Abdullah II (C) speaking during the opening of the Jordanian parliament’s new session in the capital Amman. (AFP)
A file picture shows Jordanian King Abdullah II (C) speaking during the opening of the Jordanian parliament’s new session in the capital Amman. (AFP)

AMMAN – Jordan’s interior ministry announced the arrest on Wednesday of MP Ossama al-Ajarma, following a parliamentary decision to oust him earlier this month. 

According to the official Petra news agency, Interior Minister Mazen al-Faraya confirmed the lawmaker’s arrest based on a memorandum issued by the State Security Court Prosecutor. There was, however, no mention of any charges.

The Jordanian House of Representatives had earlier voted in favour of sacking Ajarma over what the MPs considered “offensive” statements against the king and society.

Ajarma, 40, had demanded a debate on electricity cuts in Amman and other districts on May 21, accusing the government of deliberately cutting power to forestall a protest march by Jordanian tribes in support of the Palestinian cause.

But his request was turned down by the speaker and Ajarma was suspended from parliament on May 27, before resigning in protest on June 2.

Authorities said that the power failure was due to a fault on a high tension line running between Egypt and Jordan.

— Insults against king —

While many have objected to the MP’s suspension over his statements in parliament, videos that circulated online garnered support for his ousting. 

In one of the video clips shared on social media, Ajarma described the country’s king as “a pig” and said he would be willing to “shoot him between the eyes” with a pistol. In an intriguing mise-en-scene, with Bedouin music in the background, the MP spoke to masked supporters, carrying a sword and a gun. 

In other videos he has threatened to launch “a radical Jordanian right-wing,” including tribes and former army commanders, to “purge Amman of the liberal elite.” 

Ajarma’s comments were denounced by fellow MPs, 109 of whom signed a memorandum calling for his permanent suspension. Parliament Speaker Abdulmunim Oddat denounced the MP’s “perverted utterances” and “devious, slanderous” allegations about the king.

“I hereby declare the parliament’s support to the king against all attempts targeting his prestige and reject any tampering with the kingdom’s social fabric, its tribal and family harmony and social peace, which form the basis for Jordan’s security and stability,” Oddat said in a statement signed by other MPs on 7 June.

Ajarma was elected in the legislative elections for the nineteenth Jordanian House of Representatives, which were held on October 10, 2020, for the Naour District district of the capital, Amman.

The MP belongs to the Ajarma tribe, one of the biggest in Jordan. He is an independent MP, born in 1981. He served in the armed forces and graduated with the rank of major.

— Tribal factor —

The sacking of Ajarma has triggered concerns about the potential for rising tensions between the monarchy and the MP’s tribal allies.

Jordan has experienced several episodes of unrest in recent months, including scattered protests against a curfew and economic hardship triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

In early April, the country was rocked by an alleged plot to “destabilise” the kingdom, implicating Prince Hamzah, who is King Abdullah’s half-brother and a former crown prince.

Authorities said Hamzah’s case was resolved within the royal family, but two former officials linked to Saudi Arabia were charged with sedition and incitement over that affair.

Earlier in May, tight security against a tribal gathering supporting Ajarma raised fears of an open confrontation between the authorities and tribes, in a social and political escalation exacerbated by the deteriorating economic situation in the country.

The tribes’ frustration over marginalisation has recently mounted, with some seeing themselves as victims of the difficult economic troubles and the ongoing political stalemate in Jordan.

Jordanian political analyst Malik al-Athamneh, attributed the formation of a huge political vacuum in Jordan to the institutional absence of the state.

“The vacuum, which is associated with the absence of the state and the decay of its institutions, led to the rise of conflicting and competing forces with different interests. This is happening while the economy is facing a dead-end with accumulated deficits. Numbers do not lie but political statements always do,” Athamneh told The Arab Weekly.