Jordan defers corruption bill debate after outcry

AFP , Thursday 29 Sep 2011

Jordan's senate postpones indefinitely a meeting to discuss that criminalises corruption allegations

Jordan's senate on Thursday postponed indefinitely a meeting to discuss a bill that would criminalise corruption allegations, following a public outcry.

"We have postponed our debate of the Anti-Corruption Commission bill today," senate president Taher Masri told AFP on the last day of an extraordinary parliamentary session.

"No date has been set to complete the debate and we have to wait for the next regular session," which under the constitution is decided by King Abdullah II.

Officials said they now expect the debate to be held in one month.

Article 23 of the bill stipulates that those who publicly accuse others of corruption without proof will be fined between 30,000 and 60,000 dinars ($42,000-$85,000).

It has been strongly condemned by the opposition, lawyers, journalists and others.

"The law is controversial," said an official close to the process.

"There are threats of demonstrations as well as accusations that the authorities protect the corrupt. In this climate we have decided to postpone our discussion until things become clearer," said the official.

"The senate had planned to pass the legislation today because there was no time to make amendments on the last day of the extraordinary session. The only option was to postpone the meeting."

The Jordan Press Association board threatened on Wednesday to resign if parliament approves the article, a day after the lower house endorsed it by a vote of 56-40.

Opposition Islamists have condemned the bill, saying "it shows the influence of corruption in the country," while the Jordan Bar Association described it as unconstitutional.

"It violates international agreements on human rights as well as the constitution, which is clear about safeguarding freedom of expression," the JBA said in a statement.

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