Jordan Jails Opposition Leader for Using Facebook to Call a Foreign Country the “American Cop in the Region”
Even in a so-called moderate state like Jordan, speaking your mind can land you in prison if the discourse has an anti-American tone.
Bani Rushaid, the deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, spoke out on Facebook about the repression of his group in the United Arab Emirates. In a November 17 post, Rushaid wrote the UAE serves as the “American cop in the region, supports coups and is a cancer in the body of the Arab world.”
The remark got Rushaid arrested and subsequently tried by the state security court for “acts harmful to the country’s relations with a friendly nation.” He was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Supporters of Rushaid protested outside the courtroom, while Rushaid’s attorney, Saleh Armouti, called the verdict the “death for freedom of expression. The government is to blame. Where is the government?”
Another Brotherhood member, Ali Abul Sukkar, said the purpose of the state security court is to try “the most heinous crimes against the country, not for a well-known figure who expresses an opinion on Facebook,” according to The New York Times.
“There is no logical and just decision to this,” he added. “It is purely political.”
Rushaid is the fourth activist, and the third Brotherhood official, to be arrested by Jordan’s security court in recent months for statements they made.
“Labeling speech ‘terrorism’ doesn’t hide the reality that Jordan is still intent on muzzling its citizens who speak freely,” said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch. “Jordan claimed credit for limiting the jurisdiction of its State Security Court, but in reality it left gaping loopholes for authorities to carry on business as usual.”
Jordan has an abysmal record for its respect of freedom of the press and free speech, ranking 141st out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index. The country’s King Abdullah II was one of 11 world leaders whose suppression of freedom of the press in their countries made their march for press freedom in Paris last month—in response to the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack—an empty and hypocritical gesture.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman
To Learn More:
Jordan Gives Prison Term for Criticism on Facebook (by Rana Sweis, New York Times)
Jordan: Assault on Free Expression (Human Rights Watch)
11 Hypocritical World Leaders who Pretended to March for Press Freedom in Paris (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)
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