Tue, Feb 17, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Jordan jails man for UAE criticism

NY Times News Service, AMMAN

The deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan was sentenced on Sunday to 18 months in prison for criticizing the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Facebook.

The state security court, a special body that has jurisdiction over Jordan’s internal and external threats, found Muslim Brotherhood leader Zaki Bani Rushaid guilty of “acts harmful to the country’s relations with a friendly nation.”

On his personal Facebook page, Bani Rushaid wrote on Nov. 17 last year that the United Arab Emirates, an important ally of Jordan and one of several nations in the region that have engaged in a campaign to wipe out the Muslim Brotherhood, plays the role of the “American cop in the region, supports coups and is a cancer in the body of the Arab world.”

The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan condemned the verdict in a statement released on Sunday.

The arrest of Bani Rushaid under a recently strengthened antiterrorism law was “politically motivated and demonstrates a deliberate escalation by the state against the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan,” the statement said. “It is a blow to freedom of speech and the rights of citizens.”

Standing inside a black cage in the courtroom, Bani Rushaid reacted stoically to the verdict.

His lawyer, Saleh Armouti, looked at his client and said: “May God bring you no harm.”

Armouti added that he planned to appeal.

Bani Rushaid has been detained since November last year, and the time he has served would be deducted from his sentence.

“This is a shame, a shame,” shouted a small crowd outside the court after hearing the verdict.

Some held posters of Bani Rushaid.

“This court is a military court for the most heinous crimes against the country, not for a well-known figure who expresses an opinion on Facebook,” said Ali Abul Sukkar, a Muslim Brotherhood member who was among the protesters.

“There is no logical and just decision to this,” he added. “It is purely political.”

It was the first arrest and conviction of an opposition leader in recent years, although Muslim Brotherhood member Mohammed Said Bakr was taken into custody in September last year and given a six-month sentence after he criticized Jordanian authorities for what he said was a tepid response to the Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip last summer.

The Muslim Brotherhood is Jordan’s main opposition party, but unlike Egypt, Jordan has long tolerated the organization’s presence.

After Bani Rushaid’s arrest, the government noted the importance of the country’s relations with the United Arab Emirates, where about 250,000 Jordanians work and which have provided considerable financial aid to Jordan. The United Arab Emirates have also used Jordan as a base to conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State.

“The government will be assertive in implementing the law and the government cannot turn a blind eye when it comes to Jordanian interests, whether inside or outside the country,” a government spokesman said in November last year.

On Sunday, Bahrain, in a show of support, announced that it would be sending troops to Jordan, although their role remains unclear.

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