AMMAN — The Cabinet approved late Wednesday the release of five of six hardline Islamists granted a special Royal pardon, denying the release of a man charged with the 2002 slaying of a US diplomat.

According to Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Samih Maaytah, the Cabinet signed off on a Royal pardon of five members of Jordanian jihadist Salfist movement, many of whom have spent over a decade in prison.

In a press statement, Maaytah stressed that Mohammed Issa Demes, who was charged along with three men in connection with the 2002 slaying of USAID employee Laurence Foley, will not be among the released detainees.

Later Thursday, a Royal Decree was issued naming only five persons, not including Demes, who was reportedly on the original list of the pardoned Salafists.

The pardoned convicts and detainees are Mustafa Siam, Mohammad Jamil Arabiyat, Mujahed Nabeel Abu Harthiya, Ahmad Yousef Rayyan and Tareq Omar Zakaneh.

The bulk of the detainees had been held without charges while Siam was serving a life sentence for plotting to assassinate a General Intelligence Department officer in 2003.

The Jordanian jihadist movement has hailed the pardon as a “welcome step”, pledging to press Amman to release the remaining 49 movement members currently held in the Kingdom’s jails.

The Jordanian jihadist Salafist movement denies that it has supported or carried out attacks on Jordanian soil, claiming it has devoted its energies to support jihad, or “holy war” on “occupied lands”.

The Jordanian jihadist movement has distanced itself from the Foley slaying and the 2005 Amman hotel bombings, claiming that the attacks were carried out by Al Qaeda in Iraq leader and Jordanian national Abu Mussab Zarqawi without the movement’s knowledge.

Salafist leaders say they are set to meet with Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour next week to discuss the fate of the detainees in what would mark the highest official meeting with the hardliner movement in the country’s history.