abdullah of jordan 298ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Jordan's King Abdullah II pardoned two Islamist lawmakers Saturday who were convicted of stirring sectarian strife for their praise of the slain al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the official Petra news agency reported.
Last month, a military court sentenced Mohammed Abu Fares to two years in jail and Ali Abu Sukkar to one year for their "provocative" remarks about al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike north of Baghdad on June 7. The court said their prison terms began with their arrest on June 12.
But an appeals court later reduced the sentences to one year and one month for each man. Under Jordanian law, convicts serve three-forths of their jail time.
King Abdullah, the ultimate authority in Jordan, issued a "special amnesty" Saturday, decreeing that both men be released immediately, the agency reported.
No other details were immediately available.
The royal pardon effectively drops the jail term, but does not omit the crime.
Both lawmakers are members of the Islamic Action Front, Jordan's largest opposition party. The group appealed to the king to free both men, who pleaded innocent at the start of their trial in the military court in July.
The two were charged with harming national unity by "instigating sectarian strife and fueling national discord."
Abu Fares described al-Zarqawi as a "martyr," while Abu Sukkar lauded his "martyrdom" while paying condolences at the terrorist leader's family home in Zarqa, outside the Jordanian capital.
After the wake, Abu Fares said he would not apply the term "martyr" to the "mobs and ignorant people" killed in the triple Amman hotel blasts last November.
Al-Zarqawi had masterminded attacks on the hotels in which three Iraqi suicide bombers killed 60 people.
The remarks and the legislators' condolence visit provoked widespread indignation in Jordan, where two protests condemning the terror leader and the lawmakers drew several thousand people.