Jordan: authorities have arrested hundreds in crackdown on pro-Palestine protests
Surge in arrests to crush Gaza solidarity protests and suppress criticism of country’s policies on Israel
Social media posts on the Israel-Palestine crisis have led to arrests and trials
‘No-one should face arrest or prosecution simply for expressing their opinions about the war in Gaza’ - Diana Semaan
The Jordanian authorities must end a sweeping crackdown that has seen hundreds of people arrested by security and intelligence forces for expressing support for the rights of Palestinians in Gaza or for criticising the Jordanian government’s policies towards Israel, said Amnesty International.
At least 1,000 people - protesters and bystanders - were arrested during protests in support of Gaza in the capital Amman in a one-month period between October and November. Around 700 of these have been referred to a court in Amman under charges related to the penal code, such as “committing acts of violence”, “inciting discord” and “damaging public property”.
Amnesty has documented the cases of six political activists (see below), five of whom have been charged under the country’s Cybercrimes Law, interviewing three lawyers and others with knowledge of the cases, and reviewing charge sheets and other court documents.
A lawyer told Amnesty that she and other lawyers represented more than a dozen clients who had been arbitrarily detained by the intelligence forces in connection with pro-Palestine protests and held for at least a month without access to their family or lawyer, before being either released without charge or in some cases referred to the State Security Court. The lawyer cited the case of a medical student who (among many others) was detained for 95 days after protesting:
“I was allowed to see him once when he signed power of attorney and that was it … I have seven other cases [of people] who have been held by the intelligence forces for the same reasons for up to three months without any due process, including visits.”
One demonstrator who was arrested during pro-Palestinian protests in December for chanting anti-government slogans told Amnesty that the prosecutor charged him under the Cybercrimes Law after the chants were shared widely online. He was held for four days before being released, though his trial is ongoing.
The authorities also have prohibited protests close to areas bordering the Palestinian territories claiming they pose a threat to national security. On 11 November, members of the security forces pre-emptively arrested around 25 people - on security grounds - who were planning a sit-in near the border. The group were held for nearly two weeks before being released without charge.
Diana Semaan, Amnesty International’s Jordan researcher, said:
“The Jordanian authorities have launched a crackdown, using repressive legislation such as the Cybercrimes law, to eradicate all vestiges of freedom and dissent.
“No-one should face arrest or prosecution simply for expressing their opinions about the war in Gaza or criticising their government’s policies.
“The Jordanian authorities must immediately release and drop charges brought against all those arbitrarily detained and/or prosecuted solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
Detained for social media posts
In addition to arrests at protests, at least five people have been charged under the country’s Cybercrimes Law for social media posts expressing pro-Palestinian sentiments, for criticising the authorities’ peace or economic deals with Israel, or for calling for public strikes and protests.
In December, Jordan’s public prosecutor summoned Ayman Sanduka, a political activist and mathematics professor, for questioning in connection with his social media call for a general strike. According to his lawyer, Sanduka had also published a letter addressed to the king in October in which he criticised Jordan’s diplomatic relations with Israel. He was held for a month for investigation and then released pending trial. On 24 January, he was sentenced to three months in prison on charges of “defaming an official body”.
Amnesty has reviewed court documents on three other cases of people tried in civilian courts for their social media posts. Charges including “inciting sedition, strife, and hatred”, “sending, re-sending, or publishing libellous or slanderous information”, “defaming an official body” and “publishing pictures, information, or news of law enforcement officials” under the Cybercrimes Law. One person was released last month after serving a three-month sentence, while the other two remain in jail. Protesters detained at the State Security Court faced charges relating to “undermining the political regime” under the Penal Code.
Administrative detention under Crime Prevention Law
Local governors in Jordan have also used the country’s Crime Prevention Law to administratively detain some of those accused, holding them without charge or trial and only releasing them on bail after they signed a document pledging to end any participation in protests. Jordanian law fails to provide those administratively detained with an opportunity to challenge their detention. Amnesty is calling on the Jordanian authorities to repeal the Crime Prevention Law and ensure that anyone in administrative detention is either released or charged with a recognisable offence.
The recent crackdown is part of a wider crackdown in Jordan on the rights to freedom of assembly and expression through the use of repressive laws. Last year, the authorities investigated or prosecuted at least 43 people for online expression using abusive and vague laws such as the Cybercrimes Law and the Anti-Terrorism Law.