Jordan orders two-year closure of teachers' union

Amman (AFP) –


Jordan's judiciary on Saturday ordered a two-year closure of the teachers' union as part of an investigation into alleged graft and arrested 13 members, state media reported.

The move came three days after the Teachers' Association organised a demonstration attended by hundreds of protesters demanding the government honour a 2019 agreement for a rise in wages.

The government and the union, which represents 100,000 teachers, had reached the deal after a month-long strike over salaries.

The teachers had been demanding a 50-percent salary hike and had obtained raises ranging from 35 to 75 percent.

But in April, the cash-strapped government said it would freeze public sector raises this year, citing economic woes caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The teachers' union responded by calling for a demonstration on Wednesday, during which union leader Nasir al-Nawasra urged authorities to respect their promises.

On Saturday, Amman prosecutor-general Hassan Abdallat ordered a two-year closure of the headquarters of the Teachers Association, its branches and offices nation-wide, official Petra news agency said.

He also summoned members of the union's council for questioning on "criminal and corruption charges", Petra said.

Petra did not elaborate on the nature of the alleged crimes, but quoted Abdallat as saying they included "financial violations".

Abdallat later told Petra that security forces arrested the 13 members of the union's council and that they had been referred to him for questioning.

"They were questioned in the presence of their lawyers and were ordered kept in detention for a week as part of the investigation," he added.

The prosecutor also issued a gag order on investigations into the case, the agency said.

Earlier this month Jordan's King Abdullah II said his country had successfully brought the coronavirus under control and that it was time to focus on restarting the economy.

Jordan, which has so far recorded 1,154 cases of the virus including 11 deaths, imposed a tough curfew enforced by drones to stem the spread of the pandemic, before easing policies in early June.

Jordan is highly dependent on foreign aid and has struggled to curb its public debt which stands at more than $40 billion, while unemployment in the first quarter of 2020 hit 19.3 percent.

The vital tourism sector, which brought in $5 billion last year, was battered by the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.