AMMAN - King Abdullah II of Jordan has as part of his reform initiatives set up a constitutional court comprising nine members, according to a royal decree published on Sunday. The court, the first of its kind in the kingdom, will be the only one authorised to verify that laws comply with the constitution, the decree states. It is chaired by Taher Hekmat, a legal expert who heads the board of directors of the National Centre for Human Rights. He and other members of the new court were sworn in before the king on Saturday. In a letter to members of the court, Abdullah stressed that the institution “offers an important guarantee of the separation of powers and respect for the rights and freedoms of citizens.”

Hekmat for his part said a constitutional court had been demanded by a “good number of Jordanians,” referring to the Islamist opposition. The setting up of the court comes after the king on Thursday dissolved parliament and called early elections. Those measures however did not prevent the staging of a demonstration on Friday by thousands of people demanding further reforms. The dissolution of parliament also failed to convince the Islamist opposition led by the Muslim Brotherhood to reverse its boycott of the electoral process, which it says favours government loyalist rural areas at the expense of urban areas seen as Islamist strongholds.