The four members of parliament were questioned by the prosecutor-general and detained over statements they gave in support of the Jordanian-born Sunni fighter, killed on Wednesday in a joint US-Iraqi operation helped by tip-offs from Jordanian intelligence.

 

"They were held for questioning by the prosecutor-general and detained," government spokesperson Nasser Joudeh told Reuters without elaborating.

 

Earlier, Aljazeera's correspondent in Amman reported that Jordanian authorities had arrested deputies Mohammed Abu Fares and Jaafar al-Hourani, and were looking for two others, Ali Abu Sukkar and Ibrahim al-Mashwakhi.

 

Abu Fares had attended prayers for al-Zarqawi's soul during Friday prayers in his birthplace in the industrial city of Zarqa, 25km northeast of Amman, and called him a "martyr", witnesses said.

 

The three other deputies in custody had visited his family in Zarqa and offered their condolences.

 

Al-Zarqawi's family received hundreds of wellwishers who flocked to a tent set up near their home in the working class city to pay their respects.

 

Dusty streets

 

Born Ahmed Fadhil al-Khalayleh to a notable family that is part of the biggest tribe in Jordan, al-Zarqawi grew up in the dusty streets of Zarqa, where unemployment is high and Islamic activism widespread.

 

Jailed by Jordanian authorities for several years in the early 1990s, al-Zarqawi went on to fight US forces in Iraq, where Osama bin Laden named him the "prince" of al Qaeda in Iraq.

 

Al-Zarqawi died after a massive
US bomb attack on Wednesday

"These deputies should have parliamentary immunity and this shows how much the authorities have regard for democracy," Zaki Bani Rusheid, the head of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the largest political bloc in the 110-member parliament whom the four deputies are members.

 

Jordan brands al-Zarqawi as a terrorist and says he is the mastermind behind the triple hotel bombings that killed 60 civilians last November.

 

In a statement on Sunday, Jordan's parliament demanded that the Islamic Action Front "question its four members about the visit [to al-Zarqawi's home], put an end to these practices and consider any attempt to bypass the right, dignity and declared positions of this country a crime that won't go unpunished".

 

It said the visit was calculated to deliberately provoke the Jordanian people.

 

Ignorant people

 

Abu Fares explained that the term "martyr" did not apply to Jordanians who died in last November's triple hotel blasts in Amman. The attacks were claimed by al-Zarqawi's group.

 

"I can't describe them as martyrs; these were mobs and ignorant [people]," Abu Fares told Al Arabiya satellite station on Saturday.

 

Parliament argued that Abu Fares' comments marked a "serious precedent" in sanctioning killing, glorifying murderers and insulting al-Zarqawi's Jordanian victims.