Jordan has sentenced Zaki Bani Rushaid, a senior official of the Muslim Brotherhood opposition party, to 18 months behind bars, after he took to Facebook to criticise the United Arab Emirates.
Rushaid’s lawyer, Saleh Armouti, decried the sentencing as “the death of freedom of speech”. Rushaid was convicted on the charge of souring ties with a foreign country, according to The Global Muslim Brotherhood Watch.
As deputy head for the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Rushaid was initially arrested in November 2014, after he wrote on his personal Facebook page that the UAE was in the wrong for designating the pan-Islamic Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, adding that the Emirates were serving in Israel’s interests.
According to the New York Times, Rushaid wrote that the UAE is “the American cop in the region, supports coups and is a cancer in the body of the Arab world”.
Rushaid’s Facebook page was subsequently unavailable.
The UAE is a key ally of Jordan’s, itself a staunch supporter of the United States. Jordan has been largely free of the violence currently engulfing the Middle East in the wake of ISIS and the spiralling civil war in Syria. Both Jordan and the UAE have participated in U.S.-led air strikes against Islamist extremists.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which, while it remains the main opposition to Jordan’s King Abdullah II, has not called for the overthrow of the monarchy. The movement sharply condemned Rushaid’s arrest, saying it was “politically motivated” and “a blow to freedom of speech”.
Under Jordanian law, criticising the king and government officials is a criminal offence. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2014 report on Jordan, 260 websites have been blocked in the country, despite measures passed in 2011 to strengthen freedom of speech. Several journalists have been arrested for social media posts, including onto YouTube, where the publisher and editor of Jafra, a Jordanian news site, placed a third-party video criticising the Emir of Qatar.