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Court rejects proposed defence witnesses in Bani Rsheid trial

By Taylor Luck - Jan 18,2015 - Last updated at Jan 18,2015

AMMAN — The State Security Court (SSC) on Sunday rejected attempts by the defence to call in several former officials and MPs as witnesses in the trial of Muslim Brotherhood leader Zaki Bani Rsheid.

The defence had argued that several lawmakers, former ministers and academics made statements similar to Bani Rsheid’s, disparaging a foreign state, but the court ruled that the defence failed to “prove a connection” between the proposed witnesses and the case.

In its decision, the court moved to continue proceedings on January 27 to hear two defence witnesses deemed “acceptable” — Muslim Brotherhood shura council member Murad Adayleh and activist Thabit Assaf.

The decision came as the latest blow to Bani Rsheid’s defence team, which earlier this month had its constitutional challenge questioning the court’s authority to try cases related to free speech thrown out and a separate attempt to refer the case to the Court of Cassation disregarded.

Authorities arrested Bani Rsheid in late November in response to a hyper-critical statement posted on Facebook in which the Brotherhood leader accused the United Arab Emirates of promoting “Zionist” foreign policies and indirectly sponsoring “extremism” in the region.

Bani Rsheid was charged with “harming Jordan’s relations with a foreign state” in violation of Article 3 of the Anti-Terrorism Law.

The defendant maintains that the statement represented political speech protected under the Constitution, which officials refute, saying that his remarks harm ties with a country where around 225,000 Jordanian expatriates work.

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