AMMAN: Public anger in Jordan over a series of murders described as “stomach-churning” has led to growing calls for the enforcement of the death penalty.
There are 219 convicts on death row in Jordan, including 22 women.
In February 2019, Jordanian MPs passed an amnesty law, the third of its kind since King Abdullah II took office in 1999.
Under the law, about 8,000 prisoners were pardoned, including people convicted of crimes ranging from slander, abuse, cybercrimes and tax evasion.
The crimes of murder, espionage and formation of illegal entities were not included in the law.
In response to an inquiry by veteran MP Saleh Armouti, Jordanian Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya said that the longest serving death row inmate was convicted of murder in June 1976.
He added that if a complaint against a prisoner convicted of murder is withdrawn, their sentence is reduced to 15 years’ imprisonment.
His statement came days after Jordanian university student Iman Ersheid, 18, was reportedly shot dead on campus in a crime that has shaken Jordanian society.
Many Jordanians took to the social media after Ersheid’s killing last Thursday, demanding that the young nursing student’s killer receive the maximum punishment.
However, the killer, identified as Oday Khaled Abdallah Hassan, shot himself after being surrounded by police.
Before Hassan’s death came to light, some members of the public demanded that he be hanged in public.
Armouti, in his inquiry, accused the government of interfering in the judiciary by failing to execute death penalty court orders.
The veteran MP, who is also an established lawyer and former president of the Jordanian Bar Association, said that families and associates of murder victims have “all the right to see justice fully served and criminals receive the punishment for their heinous crimes.”
He added that Jordan should not listen to demands to end capital punishment, but should “act with complete sovereignty to protect security.”
Armouti said: “Ending the death penalty is a crime that has severe consequences on national security.”
Since March 2017, Jordan has not carried out any executions but has continued to hand down death sentences. In 2017, authorities hanged 15 convicts on charges related to murder and terrorism.
Jordan previously imposed an eight-year moratorium on capital punishment in 2008. But the policy ended in 2015 when 11 convicts were executed for murder.
Mohammed Eliyyan, a professor of Shariah, echoed Armouti’s remarks on the dangers of ending capital punishment.
He said: “Such punishment is not an end but a moral lesson and warning to people. Knowing that death is the inevitable punishment, one would think ten times before committing a murder.”
Khaled Qudah, a journalist and human rights activist, said that he supported the “gradual abolishment of the death penalty.”
He added: “I believe that capital punishment needs to be abolished, but gradually. And until it is completely ended, we need to adopt the ‘strategic litigation’ that examines the motives of the crimes and not their punishment.
“No one is born criminal. A human is good by nature but maybe the circumstances make him a criminal.”
But Qudah warned that ending capital punishment abruptly would lead to “heinous crimes again innocent people.”