Jordan's Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb hit out Tuesday at trade unionists campaigning against ties with Israel, accusing them of acting like "the Inquisition" towards Jordanians dealing with the Jewish state.
Speaking with the leaders of the country's 14 unions and professional organizations, he accused them of trying to be "a new authority within the state, with no legal foundation and even like courts of the Inquisition."
Quoted by the official news agency Petra, he warned that the government would act strongly against any attempt at violent protest against the arrest of seven anti-Israeli campaigners at the weekend.
He called on the unions "not to oppose rights to expression and to work, and to occupy themselves more with improving the performance of their members.” “The government will protect from slander any citizen or company which exercises the right to work within the law," he added, referring to a blacklist drawn up by a committee linked to the trade union council.
Council chairman Azzam Heneidi meanwhile admitted that some of the names on the list were not confirmed to have links with Israel, Petra said. He said the unions wanted to resolve the current "crisis".
Earlier trade unionists said they would continue to fight against normal relations between Jordan and Israel despite the arrests. One of the militants, Hoda Fakhuri, told a press conference that a campaign committee would publish more blacklists of individuals and firms dealing with the Jewish state.
Seven members of the committee were arrested on Saturday on charges of belonging to an illegal organization. Committee chairman Ali Abu Sukar and another member, Ali Hattar, who escaped because he was out of the country, have been accused of possessing bomb detonators, their lawyer told AFP on Monday. Hattar, now in Damascus, told the press conference by telephone that he would continue his activities and would soon be returning to Amman.
Also Tuesday the Arab Human Rights Organization said it had sent petitions to Abu Ragheb and Interior Minister Awad Khleifat saying the arrests were against Jordanian law and the constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression.
The blacklist published last week in a newsletter called 'The Resistance', identified more than 20 companies working mainly in agriculture, an hotel and two private schools, as well as journalists, musicians, members of parliament and several government officials, including the current head of the royal household, Fayez Tarawneh, and his predecessor.
Jordan has had a peace treaty with Israel since 1994, but anti-Israeli feeling has been running high in the kingdom since the September 28 start of the Palestinian uprising, which has claimed more than 380 lives, mostly Palestinian.
Many Jordanians, including members of parliament, have repeatedly urged the government to repeal the peace treaty in support of the uprising. — (AFP, Amman)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )