Jordan: Journalist Arbitrarily Detained for Criticising Corruption Within the Government

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Arrested on 19 May 2017 for a Facebook post criticising corruption within the Jordanian government and charged with “defamation on social media”, Hussam Al Abdallat is at risk of being sentenced to prison terms for merely having exercised his right to freedom of expression. For this reason, Alkarama sent his case to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression (SRFRDX), , asking him to urgently call upon the Jordanian authorities to release him.

48-year-old Al Abdallat is a former senior government aide within the Jordanian prime minister’s office now working as a journalist, and a prominent anti-corruption activist. Co-founder of the movement “We the People” which aims at exposing public corruption, Al Abdallat was already arrested and detained in a mass arrest campaign against anti-corruption activists on 12 January 2017, along with several other activists, former members of Jordanian institutions, teachers and civil servants. After almost a month of detention, Al Abdallat was eventually released without charges and continued to advocate against corruption.  

On 18 May 2017 in the evening, Al Abdallat published a in which he denounced the widespread corruption within the Jordanian government, accusing those who hold a public office to enrich themselves. He was arrested the following day by members of the Criminal Investigation Unit – falling under the Public Security Directorate of the Ministry of Interior – in plain clothes while he was walking in Tabarbour neighbourhood in Amman. They violently dragged him into their car, without showing any warrant nor providing any reason for his arrest. They immediately brought him to Jweideh prison in Amman.

On 21 May 2017, Al Abdallat was interrogated by the Public Prosecutor and eventually charged for “defamation on social media”, according to Jordan’s Cybercrime law, which carries a penalty of a minimum of three months to a maximum of two years imprisonment, and a fine of minimum 100 Dinars (about 140$) to a maximum 2,000 Dinars (about 2,800$). He subsequently ordered his detention.

Al Abdallat’s lawyer submitted several requests for his release, the last time on 31 May 2017, but they were all rejected; the Public Prosecution renews his detention order every week. Al Abdallat remains detained in Jweideh prison.

It is concerning that Al Abdallat remains detained and is being prosecuted merely for having stood up against corruption in his country. Al Abdellat should therefore be released immediately,” says , Alkarama's Legal Officer responsible for the Mashreq. “Moreover, as established by the UN Human Rights Committee, acts of defamation should not be criminalised, and hence the Jordanian authorities should amend the Cybercrime law and all other Jordanian laws restricting free speech to decriminalise all acts of defamation, libel and slander.”

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