The name of Salhoub Heights is no longer connected to one of the most beautiful forests in Jordan as the establishment of a ‘five-star’ prison changed the landscape of the natural reserve.
The town of Salhoub, north of the capital Amman, is now home to a ‘luxurious’ prison facility that overlooks one of the most famous pine forests now threatened with extinction.
The prison, which houses 60 inmates, was built exclusively for officials, businessmen, and public figures sentenced to jail on criminal or ethical charges.
The Salhoub prison made headlines when it received several famous figures that were found guilty by the State Security Court in the Jordan Petroleum Refinery corruption case. The newcomers included three former officials and a businessman; all were charged with bribery and abuse of power and public office.
The government decided to allocate the separate facility for public figures to protect them from possible life-threatening clashes with ordinary inmates in general prisons facilities.
The decision came especially after the head of the General Intelligence Department, Samih al- Battikhi, was attacked in a prison by inmates several times. He was sentenced to eight years in jail on corruption and bank fraud charges and was sent to the Swaqa central prison, but after subject to attacks he was put in a separate cell.
Regular and luxurious prisons
According to Jordanian authorities, the Salhoub prison is not different from other prisons in terms of privileges.
The main differenceis that Salhoub prison houses 60 prisoners, while other facilities take each a minimum of 1,000 charged with a variety of criminal offences, said Jordanian police spokesman Mohamed al-Khatib.
“Otherwise, there are no extra privileges,” he told AlArabiya.net. “Staying at Salhoub prison is for free and not for $200 a day like people claim, and inmates get three meals per day like other prisons.”
Khatib added that it is up to the court to determine the prison where the culprit is to be detained then the prison administration has the right to transfer inmates to other prisons in case there is a threat to their lives as in the case officials.
However, eye witnesses say that the prison is comprised of villas overlooking gardens. Each villa houses two persons.
The prison is modeled after five-star hotels as far as decorations and facilities are concerned, but with accordance to the local and international security standards as Salhoub prison is surrounded with an electric fence and is heavily guarded.
On the other hand, other facilities are over-crowded and suffer from deteriorating health services and limited or lack of entertainment activities.
Jordanian prisons have in the past two years gained media attention due to constant riots by prisoners in protest of deteriorating conditions.
According to security sources, Salhoub prison was established a few years ago to house public figures from other Arab countries, especially in relation to the 2003 American invasion of Iraq.
However, several circumstances on the local level hindered making the facility a political prison, so it was made for public figures who can afford to pay for their stay, including choosing their meals.
According to several human rights organizations, inmates in regular prisons are also subjected to torture and mistreatment, while the administration of Salhoub prison ensures that the safety of its inmates is protected.
(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)