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Jordanian journalist jailed for 3 years in UAE for ‘insulting state’

By JT , AFP - Mar 16,2017 - Last updated at Mar 16,2017

Tayseer Al Najjar

ABU DHABI/AMMAN — An Abu Dhabi court on Wednesday sentenced a Jordanian journalist to three years in prison over Facebook comments deemed “insulting to the United Arab Emirates”, Agence France-Presse reported  quoting Emirati state media and a Jordanian journalists’ union.

Emirati state news agency WAM said a Jordanian national was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 500,000 dirhams (JD96,515)) for “insulting symbols of the state” on social media. 

The Jordanian’s social media accounts will also be shut down and his equipment confiscated by authorities. The convicted journalist faces deportation after serving his sentence.

The Jordan Press Association (JPA) identified him as journalist Tayseer Al Najjar, whose previous detention in 2015 over comments criticising the UAE drew condemnation from international rights groups. 

Najjar was detained in December 2015 and charged with violating the UAE’s cybercrime law over Facebook comments criticising the UAE, among other countries, over the 2014 Israeli aggression on Gaza, according to rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Article 29 of the UAE’s cybercrime law criminalises the online publication of information “with intent to make sarcasm or damage the reputation, prestige or stature of the state or... any of its symbols”.

Amnesty International called Najjar a “prisoner of conscience” who should be released “immediately”.

The JPA, which appointed a lawyer for Najjar, plans to appeal to the verdict.
“We respect the UAE’s judicial system... but we truly believed he would be found innocent,” Tareq Momani, head of the association, told AFP.

“We are now waiting to see the result of the appeal. We are following the case through our lawyer and we hope that Najjar will be found not guilty,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ) called on the court of appeal to overturn the ruling to imprison, fine and deport the journalist.

 

In a statement, the CDFJ stressed that the release of  Najjar would be appreciated by the Jordanian journalist community and would be in line with deeply-rooted Jordanian-UAE relations. It called for a humanistic move, asking to take into consideration the fact that “his family did not see him for a year”.

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