AMMAN (AFP) – Jordan has detained 136 people on “terrorism” charges a week after scores were hurt when Islamist Salafist protesters clashed with police in the northern city of Zarqa, a police spokesman said on Friday.
“The involvement of 136 people brought before the prosecutor of the State Security Court for terrorism and unrest has been proven, and it was decided to detain them,” spokesman Mohammad Khatib said, quoted by Petra news agency.
Khatib spoke of the “the involvement of 100 other people on the run who will be referred to the attorney general of state security once they are arrested.”
The Salafists, who espouse an austere form of Sunni Islam, clashed with security forces during a demonstration in Zarqa, northeast of Amman, on April 15, leaving 91 people wounded.
An investigation showed the demonstrators had carried out the attack armed with “sharp weapons including swords, axes, daggers, sticks and iron bars,” said Khatib.
They “caused damage to public and private property… caused trouble… by beating and stabbing a number of citizens and members of security forces,” he said.
The spokesman said the accused forced shops to close and took control of the Omar Bin al-Khattab mosque in Zarqa “causing fear and frightening the faithful.”
Unlike other protests calling for reform that have rocked Jordan in recent weeks, the Salafist demonstrators have been demanding the release of 90 Islamist prisoners.
Among those they want freed is Abu Mohammed al-Maqdessi, the one-time mentor of slain Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who hailed from Zarqa.
The Salafists, who seek a return to practices common in the early days of Islam, have been protesting for several weeks, also staging demonstrations in the capital.
Jordanian Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit has accused the Islamists of belonging to an armed organisation, and said his government would take a tough line against them.