Hamas leaders arrested on arrival in Amman
September 22, 1999
From staff and wire reports
Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal and senior officials Musa Abu Marzook and Ibrahim Ghosheh were taken into custody as they stepped from a commercial airliner at Queen Alia International Airport.
Jordan's Deputy Prime Minster and Information Minister Ayman al-Majali said there were warrants outstanding for the three accusing them of illegal political activity.
Al-Majali said Abu Marzook would be deported. A native of Yemen, Abu Marzook is a stateless person with an Egyptian travel document given to Palestinian refugees from Gaza.
The other two Hamas leaders, both Jordanians, would be held in custody. They were taken from the airport to an undisclosed location.
Asked about their fate, al-Majali said, "That's up to the courts."
The Jordanian government has cracked down on Hamas in recent weeks, accusing the group of storing weapons and using Jordan as a military base, breaching an understanding to restrict its activity to politics and the Palestinian issue while operating from Amman.
Jordanian Prime Minister Abdul-Raouf al-Rawabdeh said last week the government was determined to arrest the Hamas leaders on their return. He accused the group of engaging in activities that harmed Jordan's national security.
Israel has welcomed the new crackdown on Hamas by the Jordanian government, saying it will improve prospects for peace. Hamas has denied interfering in Jordan's affairs or violating agreements with the government, saying the crackdown on the group was a gesture to appease Israel and the United States.
"This policy is unacceptable," a member of the Hamas steering committee who identified himself as Zohar told CNN.
Zohar said a letter had been sent to Jordan's King Abdullah asking for a meeting to try to reach a reconciliation. He said Hamas leaders had asked Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat for help in securing the meeting.
"This movement has been in cooperation with King Hussein for over 40 years," said Zohar, referring to Abdullah's late father. "This change in policy is unacceptable. We have no interest in creating conflict with Jordan or the people of Jordan."
Hussein, who died of cancer in February, saved Meshal's life in 1997 when Israeli Mossad agents tried to kill him by poisoning him. The Israelis provided an antidote to the poison after Hussein demanded they do so.
Abu Marzook was expelled by Jordan in 1995 and arrested in the United States shortly afterwards. But he was subsequently allowed by Hussein to return to Jordan in 1997.
Jamil Abu-Baker, spokesman of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood, expressed pain and regret at the arrests. He was at the airport with about 100 Islamist supporters and family members to meet the returning Hamas leaders.
Abu-Baker said the arrest were made despite efforts by the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest organized political grouping, to resolve the crisis over the closure of the Hamas' offices in the kingdom last month.
The Hamas leaders face a series of charges, including membership of a banned group. Around 15 activists were arrested during last month's crackdown after the authorities sealed their offices with red wax under orders of the prosecutor general and issued arrest warrants for the three leaders who were abroad in Iran.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Jordan orders arrest of top Hamas leaders
U.S. State Department
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