On 22 June 2017, and after more than a month of arbitrary detention, Hussam Al Abdallat, a Jordanian journalist charged with “defamation on social media” for criticising corruption within the Jordanian government through a Facebook post, was released on bail. However, he is still at risk of being sentenced to prison terms as the charges against him have not been dropped.
When 48-year-old Al Abdallat, a former senior government aide within the Jordanian prime minister’s office started working as a journalist, he also became a prominent anti-corruption activist. But following a Facebook post he published on 18 May 2017 where he accused public servants of self-enrichment, he was arrested by members of the Criminal Investigation Unit. This unit, who acts under the control of the Public Security Directorate of the Ministry of Interior, arrested him while he was walking in the Tabarbour neighbourhood in Amman. They violently dragged him into their car, and immediately took him to the Jweideh prison in Amman.
On 21 May 2017, Al Abdallat was interrogated by the Public Prosecutor who charged him with “defamation on social media”. According to Jordan’s Cybercrime law, the infraction carries a penalty of three months to two years imprisonment, and a fine of 100 Dinars (about 140$) to 2,000 Dinars (about 2,800$).
After the interrogation, the Public prosecutor subsequently ordered his detention which was challenged by his lawyer several times before he was eventually released on bail on 22 June 2017, after more than a month of arbitrary detention.
“Al Abdallat’s release is very good news but we remain vigilant since the charges against him remain pending,” says Inès Osman, Alkarama's Regional Legal Officer for the Mashreq. “His Facebook posts criticising corruption are an act of free speech, and according to Jordan’s international obligations one cannot be put in prison for expressing one’s opinion, even if the speech is deemed to be defamatory by the authorities”, she concluded.
The case of Al Abdallat was referred to the UN special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression (SRFRDX) calling the expert to urge the Jordanian authorities to drop charges against Al Abdallat and amend the Cybercrime law as well as all other Jordanian laws restricting free speech in order to decriminalise all acts of defamation, libel and slander.
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