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Jordan: 18 Months in Prison for a Facebook Post

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Jordan’s State Security Court sentenced a senior opposition figure on February 15, 2015, to 18 months in prison for criticizing the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to Human Rights Watch.

The court convicted Zaki Bani Irsheid, a senior Muslim Brotherhood official, under Jordan’s terrorism law, which lawmakers amended in 2014 to include a provision that criminalizes “disturbing [Jordan’s] relations with a foreign state.”

The prosecution was based on a November 15, 2014, Facebook post, in which Bani Irsheid criticized UAE authorities for classifying the Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist organization.”

Jordanian authorities defended the prosecution as an unbiased application of the law. Bani Irsheid has been held in Amman’s Marka prison since his arrest on November 20.

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“Jordanian officials will say they gave Bani Irsheid due process, but it’s the law itself which is inherently unjust,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch. “Jordan should stop using its terrorism law to persecute its own citizens just because they criticize foreign leaders.”

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Bani Irsheid’s Facebook post in question does not call for violence. It accuses the UAE of collusion with Israel and calls for the UAE to be expelled from the Gulf Cooperation Council, Arab League, and Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

It says Emirates undertakes the role of “American policeman,” stands behind all acts of terrorism against the Arab nation, and supports coups and Westernization movements.

Bani Irsheid’s 18-month sentence signals that Jordan has no commitment to its promises to end convictions for free expression, Human Rights Watch said.

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