Jordan frees 4 members of radical Islamist group

AP News
Posted: Apr 12, 2011 9:05 AM
Jordan frees 4 members of radical Islamist group

Jordan has released four jailed members of a radical Islamist group that had threatened to stage a mass demonstration over their detentions, the group's leader said Tuesday.

Abed Shihadeh al-Tahawi said the four were released late Monday under a deal between the security forces and his ultraconservative Salafi group, which is banned in Jordan.

"We warned that we will hold a large demonstration today, which was seen as a security risk for the government," al-Tahawi said. "The government knows that we mean business and that we do not get intimidated by security forces."

Al-Tahawi himself has recently served a prison term for plotting terrorist strikes against the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Jordan in 2004.

Government officials did not answer repeated calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Earlier Tuesday, dozens of anti-riot police with batons and helmets were deployed at the site of the planned protest near the Interior Ministry in the capital Amman, chocking traffic and drawing onlookers.

Al-Tahawi said security officials got in touch with him and other group members on Monday "to persuade us not to hold our protest."

He said the rally was meant to publicly articulate his group's demand for the release of its four followers, who were arrested in an anti-government rally last week.

"When our four brothers were released, we canceled the planned protest," he said.

But he insisted the group will continue staging demonstrations to press its demand for the release of 300 other Salafis serving prison terms for plotting al-Qaida--linked terror attacks in Jordan.

Jordan has seen 14 weeks of mostly peaceful protests, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world and pressing for reforms. The authorities have been tolerant of the gatherings and there has only been rare violence.

Salafis have held five separate demonstrations, saying they were taking advantage of the government's more lenient stance toward public protests to make their own demands public.

A key U.S. ally, Jordan is ruled by King Abdullah II and a parliament. The king has final say in all state matters.