Anti- normalization with Israel resurfaces as Jordanian court requests lifting of immunity from MP
The issue of anti-normalization with Israel has recently resurfaced in Jordan following a request by Amman court for the lifting of immunity from parliament member - Ali Abu al Sukkar; a former head of the anti-normalization committee which was dismantled by the government.
The court’s request has been made following a lawsuit filed by a Jordanian citizen, whose name appeared regularly on the anti-normalization committee’s periodic publication detailing names of Jordanian ‘normalizers’ i.e. collaborators with Israel.) These publications, regularly appearing in the Jordanian press as well as mosques and public gathering areas, listed names of citizens who had dealings with Israel and pressured the Jordanian public to boycott listed people and companies.
An Amman court has requested from the Ministry of Justice to intervene in asking Jordan’s parliamentary speaker to lift immunity from Abu al Sukkar, so he could be put on trial in the case filed against him by the publisher of the Jordanian daily - Sawt al Salam (Voice of Peace) - Tareq al Hemaidi.
Jordan’s constitution bans the arrest or trial of any member of parliament except in either of two cases; if the MP is caught red handed in a crime or a majority approval is reached by house members for his trial.
Speaking to Al Bawaba, Abu al Sukkar said, “The speaker of parliament has not yet received any request from the government regarding the lifting of my immunity.”
When asked about when he expected the House to receive the request (from the Ministry of Justice), he replied, “This issue is now with the government. The court has referred it to the Ministry of Justice, and in turn, the Minister of Justice has forwarded it to the Prime Minister…and so the whole issue lies now with the government.”
Abu al Sukkar pointed out that the issue dates back to two-and-a-half years ago and that the lawsuit was not filed against him personally, but rather in his capacity as head of the (now dismantled) anti-normalization committee. He added that the Jordanian Professionals Union was the non-governmental body that had created the committee, and it was them that published Hemaidi’s name within a list of individuals and corporations that it claimed were ‘normalizing’ with Israel.
In 2001, the Jordanian authorities arrested Abu al Sukkar and most of the committee’s members prior to permanently dismantling it, describing it as illegal.
However, Abu al Sukkar noted that Hemaidi’s name was published by the local dailies after his implicit approval. “Tareq al Hemaidi, owner of Sawt al Salam, published an article in the Jordanian daily al Arab al Yawm entitled ‘Publish my name on your list of normalizers.’ This is in addition to a photo taken of him participating in celebrations at the embassy of the ‘Zionist enemy’ in Amman along with the Israeli ambassador,” said Abu al Sukkar.
“Soon after his name was published as a ‘normalizer’ with Israel, Hemaidi filed a lawsuit at an Amman court.”
Abu al Sukkar, a member of the Islamic Action Front who ran successfully for a seat in July’s parliamentary elections as an Islamist added that, “I complied with the court’s order and appeared before them following their first request, which was one day prior to the commencement of the parliament’s regular session. However, my second appearance in court was requested following the current parliament’s regular session, and so therefore I was not obligated to appear.”
He went on to say, “I wanted to appear before the court but after I discussed the matter with my lawyers, I learned from them that article 142 of the House’s law prohibits any of its member to give up their immunity unless a majority approval is secured from the house’s members. Consequently, I found myself unable to attend the court’s second request to have me appear before them as the court cannot put me on trial while the current parliament is still in session.”
When asked of his expectations about the outcome of the parliament’s response when the MOJ request is delivered, he commented, “The House does not receive instructions from any other institutions…however I think there is a fairly large number of MP’s against ‘normalization’ with Israel, which is evident from their speeches.”
Abu al Sukkar expressed his hope that this issue wouldn’t be manipulated by the government, whose relation with the Islamists has always been tense. “I hope the government will not be a part of this issue, as they should leave it for the judicial entities to resolve,” he said.
For his part, Hemaidi reiterated to Al Bawaba that his case against Abu al Sukkar has faced big obstacles in the past, especially when Jordanian lawyers have refused to take his case due to pressure from the Bar Association. He said, “The Jordanian Bar Association (a member of the Professional Unions) banned lawyers from defending me,” adding “the association threatened those lawyers who proposed to defend me with disciplinary action.”
He went on to add “the bar association has written to my current lawyer accusing him of being a ‘normalizer’.” He also said “I requested from the bar association permission for any lawyer to defend me in my case or permit me to hire a foreign lawyer, but they refused to talk to me and they refused to see me in their offices as well.”
In the same context, Hemaidi noted that the chief of the bar association will be representing the defendant Abu al Sukkar in the case.
After he failed to find a local lawyer to defend him, Hemaidi turned to the US bar association seeking help. “I sent them a letter and requested their help but I have not received an answer from them yet.”
On another note, Hemaidi denied that he resorted to the US embassy for help – something he has been accused of. “What happened was that I went to the US embassy to get addresses of American lawyers,” he said.
He also denied he had personally requested to have his name published on the list of normalizers with Israel, reiterating “this accusation has harmed and caused me large financial and social losses.” He added that he is an advocate of peace, reiterating “peace is something and ‘normalization’ is something else…this issue has caused me and others large financial and social losses,” concluded Hemaidi.
In February of this year, British company RMC Group p.l.c. announced in Amman its withdrawal from the Jordanian market and the sale of its stake in the local company – Al Ramz Ready Mix – to a Jordanian investor. The move came after disappointing corporate results which Al Ramz attributed to the Professional Unions which have put the former on their black list, alleging it was an Israeli company.
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