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No political prisoners in Jordan — minister

By Raed Omari - Dec 01,2014 - Last updated at Dec 01,2014

AMMAN — With MPs calling for releasing "political prisoners", the government said no one was arrested for political reasons but purely on security-related charges.  

Commenting on a memorandum signed by a group of deputies requesting the release of "opinion prisoners", Minister of Political and Parliamentary Affairs Khaled Kalaldeh stressed that those arrested were charged for security-related crimes.

Twenty-four MPs signed a memorandum on Monday, initiated by Deputy Ali Sneid, requesting that all political prisoners in Jordan be released, arguing that the arrests constitute a violation to the Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression.

In the memorandum, a copy of which was seen by The Jordan Times, signatories called for avoiding a crackdown on political activism and keeping the door open for risk-free public engagement in politics. 

In remarks to The Jordan Times, Kalaldeh reiterated that the arrests, mainly among Islamists, were not politically motivated.

“The term ‘political prisoner’ is confused. It is only when people are arrested for their opinions that they are called ‘political prisoners’. This has never been the case in Jordan,” he said.

MPs were referring in particular to Islamist members of professional associations who have been recently arrested, Kalaldeh said, adding that these “very few detainees” are in custody for security charges and will be tried by the State Security Court (SSC).

Following a rally organised by the Muslim Brotherhood in Amman, security forces arrested some leaders of the group.

The minister added that the indictment list issued by the SSC prosecutors included charges of a security nature, adding that the list entails no charges pressed against the suspects on political grounds. 

In its Facebook page, the Islamic Action Front, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, described the arrest of its members as “politically motivated” and “unjustified”, warning that such “arbitrary” arrests will fuel tension in the Kingdom.  

At a recent press conference at its headquarters, the IAF also called for releasing the Brotherhood Deputy Overall Leader Zaki Bani Rsheid.

In a statement he made on his Facebook page, Bani Rsheid criticised the United Arab Emirates for labelling the Brotherhood movement as a terrorist organisation. He was arrested on November 20 and is currently awaiting trial at the SSC for “harming relations with a brotherly country”.

The IAF called for cancelling the Anti-Terror Law, which they said is used for “intimidating the public and suppressing freedom of expression”. 

A relative of one of the detainees said that many activists from the professional associations have been arrested lately, including her brother who was arrested on October 29 along with Mazen Malas and Ghassan Douar.

The arrestees also included Jordanians who served prison terms in Israel as well as eight non-Jordanians from the West Bank who study in the Kingdom, along with journalist Khaled Doum from Taif Group for TV Production. 

She also said Jordan Engineers Association members Hamzeh Shahin, Musab Bourini, Bashir El Hassan, Abdulrahman El Hassan and Anas Awad were also arrested.

“Most of the people who have been arrested are Muslim Brotherhood members or political activists,” she added.

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