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Court hears prosecution witnesses in Brotherhood leader trial

By Taylor Luck - Dec 28,2014 - Last updated at Dec 28,2014

AMMAN — The State Security Court (SSC) heard the testimony of two prosecution witnesses on Sunday in the ongoing trial of Muslim Brotherhood Deputy Overall Leader Zaki Bani Rsheid.

Two General Intelligence Department (GID) officers swore that Bani Rsheid published an article on two separate websites that “harmed relations between Jordan and a foreign state”, in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Law. 

The prosecution’s first witness, a GID major general who went under the alias of Mohsen, said he discovered an article by Bani Rsheid on the Jordan Muslim Brotherhood’s website on November 20 disparaging the United Arab Emirates’ leadership. 

In response, the witness said he ordered the arrest of the Islamist leader later that day. 

The second witness, Mahmoud, an intelligence officer with the rank of corporal, said he read the same article deemed “an attack on the UAE” on Bani Rsheid’s personal Facebook page the same day and ordered the referral of  the Brotherhood leader to the SSC for violating the Anti-Terrorism Law.  

Bani Rsheid’s defence team, led by former Jordan Bar Association president Saleh Armouti, objected to the first witness’ testimony, claiming that the defendant had only published his essay on his personal Facebook page and no other website.

The defence also called for the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses to be dismissed as they “failed to prove that the article negatively affected Jordan’s ties with a foreign state”.

Armouti criticised Bani Rsheid’s “unlawful detention”, claiming that the Brotherhood leader was arrested without a proper warrant and interrogated for extended hours by the GID following his arrest late November 20.

Bani Rsheid’s lawyers denounced what they described as “interference” by authorities preventing them from presenting their case, claiming that their previous visit with Bani Rsheid at the Marka Correctional Facility in northern Amman was restricted to 15 minutes.

The court moved to continue deliberations in a session on Sunday.

The defendant remained subdued for most of the session, engaging in a flurry of hushed conversations with his defence attorneys prior to their reply to the witnesses’ testimony.

Authorities arrested Bani Rsheid outside the Brotherhood’s Amman headquarters late November 20 for an article published on Facebook critical of the UAE leadership and accusing it of supporting “terrorist” and “Zionist” foreign policies. 

Authorities claim that the article “harmed Jordan’s relations with a foreign state”, in violation of articles 3 and 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Law, highlighting that over 150,000 Jordanians reside in the UAE and that Abu Dhabi is a major provider of direct and indirect aid to Jordan.  

Bani Rsheid and his defence team maintain that the Brotherhood leader’s article is protected under the Constitution as free speech.

The Islamist has pleaded “not guilty” to the charges. 

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