Jordan: Islamist leader slams security services

AP News
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Posted: Jul 08, 2011 12:30 PM
Jordan: Islamist leader slams security services

Jordan's Islamist opposition leader Friday issued a rare public denunciation of the country's feared security apparatus, accusing it controlling government policies and seeking to limit free expression.

"Enough is enough," shouted Hamza Mansour of the Islamic Action Front in a speech to 300 protesters outside the prime minister's office to press for his dismissal.

The broadside by Mansour underlines growing frustration with the tight security grip in this pro-U.S. Arab kingdom. In street protests over the past six months _ inspired by the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia _ Jordanians accused police and intelligence of using excessive force to quell the demonstrations.

"Intelligence approves Cabinets and dismisses them at will if Cabinet ministers did not implement the policies of limiting the freedom of expression, intimidating citizens and frightening the regime's opponents," claimed Mansour, who leads Jordan's biggest opposition party.

Jordan's Western-trained intelligence network is widely seen as one of the region's most highly regarded spy agencies. It closely cooperates with the United States in its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and played a role in efforts to battle al-Qaida.

Within Jordan, the intelligence service maintain close control over state affairs. It must approve civil servants before taking up public office, acquiring emigration visas or even driver's licenses.

Mansour did not provide evidence to backup his allegation on intelligence approving and dismissing Cabinet _ which is in the hands of King Abdullah II, who has the final say in all matters.

But Mansour insisted that government policies "are meant to maintain the status quo, which is the tight grip of security over everyone."

Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit, a former army general, is accused of dragging his feet on promised political reforms, which include amending legislation to give the public a wider say in politics.

Jordanian opposition and protesters say they want Abdullah to remain their king, but want to limit some of his powers. They want the king to stop appointing prime ministers and allow the post to be picked by the elected parliament.

Elsewhere, about 800 Jordanians took to the streets in various demonstrations to demand al-Bakhit step down.