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Bail denied for two journalists over 'false' tax evasion claims

By Rana Husseini - Jan 17,2018 - Last updated at Jan 17,2018

AMMAN — The Amman prosecutor on Wednesday refused to release two journalists arrested for allegedly publishing tax evasion accusations against the finance minister earlier this year.

Editor-in-chief of Jafra News Website Omar Maharmeh, who is also a board member of the Jordan Press Association (JPA) and reporter Shadi Zaynati were ordered detained at Marka Prison by Amman Prosecutor Abdullah Abul Ghanam on Tuesday.

Minister of Finance Omar Malhas had filed a complaint against the two journalists after a news item reportedly appeared on Jafra website accusing him of “tax evasion during his service at the Housing Bank for Trade and Finance (HBTF)”, Qteishat told The Jordan Times.

“We were informed that the two were denied bail because of the ongoing investigations and the case’s circumstances,” JPA lawyer Mahmoud Qteishat said.

He added: “We will try to post another bail on Thursday and hope that they will be released on bail.”

The two journalists were summoned on Tuesday and ordered detained by Abul Ghanam following questioning, added Qteishat, who is only representing Maharmeh since Zaynati is not a JPA member.

The charges levelled against them include violation of the Electronic Crime Law, publishing false information and slandering an official.

JPA board member Khaled Qudah, who is also head of the Freedom’s Committee at the syndicate, said the “syndicate will steer up this case because we feel that journalists are unable to express themselves freely”.

“We will continue to demonstrate at the JPA headquarters. We have already been joined by other sectors of society who totally refuse the government’s policy towards raising prices of commodities and jailing journalists,” Qudah told The Jordan Times.

Qudah’s reiterated the JPA’s stand against “detaining journalists in press freedom cases”.

On January 9, the Income and Sales Tax Department (ISTD) Director General Bashar Nasser refuted as “inaccurate” the Jafra report accusing Malhas of tax evasion during his service at the HBTF.

Nasser said that Malhas disclosed his end of service gratuity as well as his income the year he received it from the HBTF, adding that he paid all of his taxes in accordance with the law.

Nasser explained that, according to Article 12 of the Income Tax Law No. 34 of 2014, the employer deducts the tax from the employee’s income (in this case, the HBTF) and deposits it at the ISTD. 

 

“This proves the inaccuracy of the news reported by several websites,” he concluded.

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