JORDAN FREES EX-MENTOR OF KILLED IRAQ QAIDA CHIEF
Salafist release is king's attempt to appease Jordanian society in order to gain support for fight against IS
Jordan on Thursday released from jail a key Salafist figure and former al-Qaida mentor arrested in October for allegedly propagating "terrorist" ideas, a judicial source said.
The decision to free Issam Barqawi, who was once mentor to slain al-Qaida leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was taken by the head of the state security court, a military tribunal.
He ruled against a decision by the state prosecutor to put Barqawi on trial and ordered "his immediate release", the source said.
When Barqawi was arrested, the prosecutor general accused him of "using the Internet to propagate the ideas of the terrorist group Al-Nusra Front", al-Qaida's Syria branch.
The source gave no reasons for the decision, which comes a day after Jordan executed two Iraqi al-Qaida-linked jihadists in response to the burning alive by the Islamic State group of one of its fighter pilots.
The release could be viewed as a slight towards ISIS. ISIS is engaged in a war on the ground and in social media against Al Qaeda. Maqdessi is now as a prominent voice in the region against ISIS whom Al Qaeda recruits and fighters look up to. His release could be the attempt of Jordanian Intelligence to further sow discord between jihadist factions especially anti ISIS.
Jordan said it hanged female militant Sajida al-Rishawi and al-Qaida member Ziad al-Karboli -- who were both on death row -- before dawn on Wednesday.
Rishawi, 44, was sentenced to death for her role in triple hotel bombings in Amman in 2005 that killed 60 people, and that were claimed by Jordan-born Zarqawi.
Also known as Mohammed al-Maqdessi, Barqawi's arrest last year came just four months after he had been released from jail after completing a sentence in connection with another case.
He had been jailed in 2011 for recruiting people in Jordan to join the Taliban in Afghanistan as well as "terrorist organizations".
He was also found guilty of collecting funds for "terrorist groups" to commit acts that would harm Jordan and its ties with other countries.
Barqawi was a mentor to Zarqawi before the two fell out.
Zarqawi achieved notoriety for a spate of videotaped executions of Western hostages in Iraq before his death in a US air strike in 2006.
The pair met in 1992 and Zarqawi later joined Barqawi's Sunni militant group Jaish Mohammed (Mohammed's Army).
Later they were jailed in Jordan for five years for being in an outlawed Islamist organization but weer freed as part of a general amnesty in 1999.
Barqawi was arrested again in Jordan in 2005 after remarks he made to Al-Jazeera television, but was released in 2008 for "humanitarian reasons" after going on hunger strike.