Riot police assault Al-Jazeera crew in Jordan

While covering a demonstration in Amman, Jordan, on January 9, 2009, against Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, riot police attacked an Al-Jazeera crew, the network reported. Bureau Chief Yassir Abu Hilala, and cameramen Malik al-Laham, Muhammad al-Huwaiti, and Safwan al-Awawida were all treated at a local hospital.

Hundreds of people had gathered after Friday prayers to protest Israel’s Gaza offensive in front of a mosque in Al-Rabia neighborhood in Amman. Riot police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd when it tried to approach the Israeli Embassy, which is near the mosque, local and regional news agencies reported. Al-Jazeera’s crew was assaulted after the police dispersed the crowd, Abu Hilala told Radio AmmanNet, an Amman-based internet radio station. He said that he was enquiring about the identity of group of plainclothes men who were tearing down a mock cemetery representing Palestinian victims in Gaza when one of the men told him, “If you don’t leave, I will break your face,” according to a transcript from AmmanNet, an Internet radio station.

Abu Hilala told AmmanNet that he sought protection from a nearby group of uniformed police officers after he was threatened, but that they beat him with their batons. According to the bureau chief and multiple news reports, the policemen also hit the rest of Al-Jazeera’s crew. All the members were taken to a hospital, where Abu Hilala received 12 stitches in his head.

Al-Huwaiti‎ was discharged from the hospital on January 11, and Abu Hilala left the following day. It was unclear whether the other cameramen were discharged. The story was widely covered in the Arabic press, which all noted that King Abdullah II had called Abu Hilala to condemn the assault and assure him that an investigation would be launched.