Dozens hurt in Jordan protest clash

AP News
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Posted: Mar 24, 2011 6:42 PM
Dozens hurt in Jordan protest clash

Protesters and supporters of Jordan's king clashed in the capital of Amman late Thursday, and about 35 people were hurt in one of the most violent incidents in three months of demonstrations.

About 2,000 Jordanians demanding government reforms joined an encampment at a central square. They were attacked by about 300 supporters of King Abdullah II, who threw rocks at the demonstrators, injuring some of them.

Leftist groups joined youth who demonstrated through the day to press demands for the ouster of the prime minister and wider public freedoms.

Many said they met through Facebook last month to launch a group called the Jordanian Youth Movement.

Before the violence, group spokesman Ziad al-Khawaldeh said protesters would remain outdoors until Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit departs. Other demands include dissolving what is widely seen as a docile parliament, dismantling the largely feared intelligence department and giving greater powers to the people.

The group changed its name Thursday to "Youth of March 24" _ marking what members said was the start of an open-ended demonstration.

"Today is the dawning of the Jordanian revolution," said group spokesman Ziad al-Khawaldeh, 23.

"We will not move an inch from here until our demands are met," he said under pouring rain at the Interior Ministry Circle in the heart of the Jordanian capital. The district houses the Interior Ministry and police, financial and other government offices as well as Western hotels.

Protesters waved banners that called for a "new Jordan, clean of corruption and corrupt officials."

"Intelligence Department, we want your hands off politics!" they chanted.

Al-Khawaldeh said two protesters were detained for questioning, but that he did not know the reason. While one of them was released hours later, the other remains in detention, he said.

Police officials were not immediately available for comment.

Al-Khawaldeh said the protesters want al-Bakhit to be "instantly replaced with a liberal government that would quickly implement reforms."

Al-Bakhit, a former army general, is widely regarded as a tough military officer incapable of introducing changes demanded by protesters. Those reforms include an election law replacing a one seen as favoring the king's loyalists and blamed for producing a docile parliament, the only elected body in Jordan's government.

Jordan's opposition also want to strip the king of some of his powers, specifically in appointing the prime minister. Instead, they want the premier to be elected by a popular vote.

"Enough is enough," said Mohammed al-Qaisi, 23, an unemployed sociologist. "We don't want the king to go, but we want him to listen to us; We're fed up with al-Bakhit, with parliament and with Jordan being a police state ruled by the intelligence department."

Taxi driver Haitham Yassin, 29, said he joined the protest because "I want the king to know that I became a taxi driver because I couldn't find a job as an electronic engineer."

"My degree went to waste," he said.