AMMAN — The Amman Criminal Court on Monday decided for the second time to acquit two commentators on charges related to political remarks they made in separate TV talk shows regarding the Jordan Armed Forces’ role in Afghanistan.
Judges Emil Rawashdeh and Ashraf Abdullah acquitted Jordanian Writers Association President Muwaffaq Mahadin and political analyst Sufian Al Tal of charges ranging from harming relations with a friendly country and attempting to topple the regime, to disseminating false information and harming a security establishment.
“The prosecution did not present enough evidence to implicate the defendants on some of the charges and in other charges the defendants’ actions were not incriminating,” said Riyad Nawayseh, one of the lawyers in a team that represented the defendants.
“This was a historical, comprehensive and just verdict that was well examined and justified by the Criminal Court,” Nawayseh told The Jordan Times.
“The verdict is also a victory for the rights of citizens of this country and their freedom of speech and expression,” the lawyer added.
In May 2011, the Criminal Court declared the two men not guilty and ruled that Article 118 of the Penal Code, which stipulates punishment for speeches and writings that harm the country’s relations with other countries, is “unconstitutional”.
The case went to the Appeals Courts, which upheld the Criminal Court ruling, and the case was sent to the Cassation Court, according to Nawayseh.
“The Cassation Court overturned the verdict and ruled that Article 118 was constitutional and sent it back to the Criminal Court, which decided to disregard the constitutional part and examine the facts of the case for the second time, resulting in the acquittal of our clients,” he explained.
The two men were referred to the court after a group of retired army officers filed a lawsuit against them for criticising the Jordan Armed Forces’ role in Afghanistan during talk shows aired separately by two TV stations.
They were first referred to the Amman prosecutor general, and then to the State Security Court, which decided three weeks later that the case does not fall within its jurisdiction and referred it to the Criminal Court.
The debates in which the two men took part addressed the issue of the Jordanian suicide bomber, Hamam Balawi, who blew himself up at a US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) base in the city of Khost in Afghanistan, killing seven CIA agents and his Jordanian handler.
The Criminal Court prosecutor will appeal the verdict at the appeals and cassation courts, according to Nawayseh, who stressed that he was certain that “both courts will uphold the acquittal verdict.”