Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

King of Jordan issues decree approving royal pardon

Thousands of prisoners are expected to be released

King Abdullah of Jordan at Al Husseiniya Palace, Amman, Jordan. EPA
King Abdullah of Jordan at Al Husseiniya Palace, Amman, Jordan. EPA

King Abdullah of Jordan issued a royal decree on Monday finalising a general amnesty law set to release almost half the country’s prison population.

The pardon, which was approved by the government on January 28, will see the release of thousands of prisoners jailed for convictions ranging from petty crime, traffic violations and unpaid government fines to embezzlement.

"A royal decree was issued with the approval of the General Amnesty Act of 2019," the Royal Hashemite court said on Twitter.

According to government estimates, the pardon will release 8,000 Jordanians and guest workers from the country’s prisons – nearly half the estimated 17,000 prison population.

The bill does not cover serious crimes that fall under the category of terrorism, treason, espionage or financial charges such as tax evasion and abuse of public funds.

This is not the first time the Jordanian king has undertaken an amnesty.

In 2011, he pardoned thousands after waves of protests in Jordan amid the backdrop of mass uprisings in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt.

On December 12, King Abdullah ordered the government to issue a pardon to “contribute to easing the economic burden and difficult conditions citizens are going through,” as the country is embroiled in protests over the economy and ongoing discontent.

Many Jordanians are currently frustrated over the economy, tax hikes and corruption.

They believe the government, which faces a record public debt of around $40 billion, is eroding the disposable incomes of poor and middle-class Jordanians while letting the wealthy off the hook. Failing to tackle tax avoidance among the rich or enforcing large companies pay their dues.

The move by King Abdullah was seen as a way to defuse the tensions.

The protest movement started last summer after parliament approved a tax bill that was seen by the public as “tough austerity measures”.

Protesters complain that Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, appointed by the King after demonstrations in the summer, has not delivered on promises to jail corrupt officials and businessmen.

Jordan suffers from high unemployment, with regional conflicts weighing on its businesses.

This has resulted in poor economic growth reducing tax revenues, forcing Jordan to rely heavily on loans and resort to more domestic financing.

Updated: February 4, 2019 08:21 PM

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