Jordan stuns neighbors, freezes Hamas-linked charities

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

AMMAN Jordan has acceded to a U.S. request to freeze the activities of Islamic charities believed linked to Hamas.

Jordanian officials said the kingdom has suspended permits for six Hamas charities to raise funds and organize activities in Jordan. The officials said Amman has also suspended activities of five Palestinian organizations whose assets were frozen by the United States.

The Jordanian move was taken on Monday in wake of European Union and U.S. decisions to freeze assets of charities linked to Hamas, Middle East Newsline reported. Last week, the EU agreed to classify the entire Hamas group, rather than just the military wing, as terrorist.

Jordanian Central Bank governor Amiya Tuqan said authorities have frozen all activities related to Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin and his deputy Abdul Aziz Rentisi, who live in Gaza City, and politburo chief Khaled Masha'al, based in Damascus. Tuqan said the order also included activities that relate to Hamas politburo members Mussa Abu Marzouq and Imad Alami, also based in Damascus, and the organization's representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan. In 1999, Jordan labeled Hamas a terrorist group and deported four of its leaders. They included Masha'al and Abu Marzouk.

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The Hamas organizations affected in Jordan were connected to charities whose assets were frozen by the United States in August. The U.S. Treasury Department froze assets of the British-based Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, or Interpal, as well as alleged Hamas front organizations in Austria, France, Switzerland, and Lebanon.

Jordanian officials said the regulations ban anybody from dealing with the 11 organizations linked to Hamas. They said the next step will be to freeze the assets of the charities.

Islamic opposition leaders said they were stunned by Amman's decision and accused the kingdom of caving in to Israeli and U.S. pressure. They said the decision was meant to end the Palestinian war against Israel.

On Monday, 58 Jordanian parliamentarians signed a statement that condemned the EU classification of Hamas as a terrorist group. The statement, which said the decision by Brussels favored Israel, was relayed to the EU representative in Amman.

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