Jordan court sentences five to jail over Al Salt hospital Covid-19 deaths

Eight others found not guilty in case that sparked protests across country in March

Jordanian town mourns after hospital deaths

Jordanian town mourns after hospital deaths
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A Jordanian civil court on Sunday sentenced five public health employees to three years in prison over the deaths of 10 Covid-19 patients in March after oxygen supplies at a government hospital ran out.

The five, all staff at King Hussein Hospital in Al Salt, include hospital director Abdulrazzaq Al Khashman and his deputy. They can appeal against their verdict.

The case is one of the biggest public sector scandals to hit Jordan in recent years, laying bare the tension between the central government and the country's powerful clans.

The court in Amman found eight other people, including two senior health ministry officials, not guilty. The 13 accused were all men.

Residents of Al Salt, in central Jordan, said up to 30 coronavirus patients died at the hospital on March 13. The authorities gave different figures before settling on 10.

Mohammad Al Hadidi, whose son died in the coronavirus ward on that day, said the three-year sentences were too short.

"They should have received double that to learn a lesson. They were playing with people's lives," Mr Al Hadidi said from Al Salt. "They were all hired based on nepotism, not competence, and the people [at the] top know that."

The deaths led to the resignation of Health Minister Nathir Obeidat and the intervention of King Abdullah who visited the hospital and chastised Al Khashman.

The deaths also sparked demonstrations across Jordan as protesters demanded the removal of the government, leading to hundreds of arrests.

King Abdullah called for more accountability in the public sector after the Al Salt hospital deaths but made it clear that he would not change the government led by Prime Minister Bisher Al Khasawneh since October last year.

A few weeks after the deaths, a public rift broke out within the monarchy and authorities accused Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, the king's younger half-brother, of trying to destabilise the kingdom.

Many Jordanians have complained about a deterioration in public services over the past two years, amid a recession and rising unemployment that is officially at a record high of about 25 per cent.

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Updated: December 06, 2021, 6:33 AM