Lawmakers throw haymakers in parliament (VIDEOS)

Scuffles between MPs debating constitutional reforms force Jordan’s parliament to adjourn

Fistfights broke out among lawmakers in the Jordanian parliament on Tuesday, following a heated debate on several controversial constitutional reforms, including a gender equality amendment. The session had to be adjourned.

Live footage of the minutes-long brawl aired on state media showed irate MPs shoving, grabbing, and throwing punches as colleagues attempted to restrain them. One politician fell to the ground during the fisticuffs, as voices can be heard in the background screaming for it to stop.

The fight apparently erupted over an amendment to include the female noun for a citizen in a chapter of the country’s constitution titled the ‘Rights and Duties of Jordanians’, which grants equal rights to all, the Middle East Eye reported, citing Jordanian media outlets.

Several politicians were opposed to the motion, terming it “unnecessary,” according to the Al-Mamlaka channel that broadcast the session in the House of Representatives. One MP reportedly commented that the addition of the female noun would be “shameful.” The remarks irked Speaker Abdelkarim al-Daghmi, presiding over the debate, who demanded an apology.

Several deputies traded punches in a brawl in Jordan’s parliament after a verbal row escalated when the assembly speaker called on a deputy to leave, witnesses said

— Reuters (@Reuters) December 28, 2021

The disagreement reportedly escalated after another politician criticized al-Daghmi for being “unable to run the show” and accused him of “not knowing anything.” To this, the speaker apparently told the MP to “shut up and leave the hall” before adjourning the session and walking out himself.

The fight broke out after his departure, when opposing lawmakers began jostling and finger-wagging. No one was injured in the punch-up and ensuing chaos, according to Reuters. Clips of the tussle have been widely shared on social media.

“There was a verbal shouting match that turned into a fist fight by several deputies. The behavior is unacceptable to our people and harms our country’s reputation,” Khalil Atiyeh, an MP who witnessed the session, told the news agency.

اقول الصلح خير #مجلس_النواب

— Mohammed al Ersan (@JournalistErsan) December 28, 2021

Other constitutional reforms scheduled to be discussed during the session included the creation of a National Security Council, and the halving of the speaker’s term in office to one year.

Lawmakers also objected to proposed changes that could increase the powers of the country’s monarch, King Abdullah II, Euronews reported, adding that a royal commission had previously proposed giving MPs the right to choose the country’s prime minister.

How Omicron might affect Ghislaine Maxwell hearing

There is growing concern that jurors becoming infected could lead to a mistrial

The judge presiding over the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, a long-time associate of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, has warned that the rapid spread of Omicron in New York could jeopardize the proceedings.

The prosecution, supported by the testimonies of more than 20 witnesses, alleges Maxwell lured underage girls into Epstein’s web of sexual abuse. Although the jurors began deliberating on December 20, they have made little progress so far, as the proceedings were adjourned for the public holidays. Now the presiding judge says she wants the jury to sit without a recess until it reaches a verdict, for fear the highly contagious Omicron variant of Covid-19 could derail the trial.

What are the judge’s concerns?
Speaking to the US media on Tuesday, Judge Alison Nathan warned that New York City was now “at a different place regarding the pandemic than we were only one week ago,” and facing what she described as an “astronomical spike” in infection numbers. Judge Nathan said she was concerned the proceedings could end in a mistrial should significant numbers of jurors or other participants fall ill with the coronavirus. A full jury of 12 is always required, but in another case early in the pandemic, Nathan allowed a juror to participate from home via FaceTime.

Is she expecting the jury to come to a swifter conclusion?
Judge Nathan sought to allay jurors’ concerns by telling them, “Of course, by this, I don’t mean to pressure you in any way. You should take all the time that you need.” They will not be expected to sit at weekends nor, now, to stay for an extra hour each weekday evening, which had been her initial requirement. The court has a number of safety measures in place: unlike some judges on the federal bench, Nathan does not require jurors to be vaccinated, but they must wear a particular type of mask at all times and deliberate at a designated table that allows them to remain at least six feet apart.

Would a mistrial mean an acquittal for Maxwell?
Were the case to be ruled a mistrial, Ghislaine Maxwell would not be convicted. However, it wouldn’t automatically mean she was acquitted, either. The prosecutor would likely move that the case be retried with a new jury, although the final say in such matters rests with the judge. 

Has Covid-19 affected other trials?
In the state of Maryland, the judiciary announced on Monday that all jury trials scheduled between December 29 and February 8 would be suspended due to the growing number of Covid infections. Jury trials were also postponed in a similar manner by nearly two dozen US district courts in November 2020.

So, what charges does Maxwell face?
Maxwell has been charged with enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts; transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; conspiracy charges; sex trafficking of a minor; and sex trafficking conspiracy. In addition, she faces two perjury charges that will not be addressed during the current trial.

And what was the nature of her relationship with Epstein?
She was Epstein’s girlfriend in the early 1990s and, after they split up, remained a close friend and ended up essentially working for him. The prosecution alleges that her primary role was finding underage girls and luring them into Epstein’s net.

What is Maxwell’s own stance on these accusations?
She pleaded not guilty to the original six counts, with her lawyers cited by the media as having said that she “vigorously denies the charges, intends to fight them, and is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

What conditions is she being kept in while incarcerated?
She has been denied bail on multiple occasions because the judge is concerned she might abscond, and has been held in de facto solitary confinement in New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center since July 2020. Maxwell herself has complained that she does not get to properly communicate with her lawyers and that her receipt of legal correspondence is often delayed. She has described the conditions in jail as grim, unsanitary, and unsafe, according to reports.