Jordan: Release of Eyad Qunaibi After One Year in Detention for a Facebook Post

Eyad Qunaibi

On 17 May 2016, Professor Eyad Qunaibi was released from Muwaqqar II prison where he was detained for "incitement against the political regime," for a having published a Facebook post criticising, among others, his country's ties with Israel and the "westernisation of Jordanian society". The previous day, the State Security Court reduced Qunaibi's sentence from two to one year of imprisonment – which he had already served – and ordered his release. While welcoming Qunaibi's release, Alkarama regrets that the State Security Court failed to recognise that he was arbitrarily detained for having exercised his right to freedom of expression and did not acquit him.

Qunaibi was arrested on 15 June 2015 by the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) after having been summoned and interrogated about a Facebook article entitled Jordan heading for the abyss he published on 10 June 2015. It is only on 8 August 2015 that he was indicted by the State Security Court's Prosecutor with "incitement against the political regime" under article 149 of the Penal Code, presenting as sole evidence references to specific sections of his article. It is under this sole charge that, on 7 December 2015, Qunaibi was sentenced to two years imprisonment by the State Security Court (SSC), a court of exception which lacks the necessary guarantees of impartiality and independence for trying civilians. In November 2015, after Jordan's review by the UN Committee against Torture (CAT), the UN experts recommended the SCC's abolition in their concluding observations.

Considering that the free expression of Qunaibi's critical opinion should in no way constitute a crime, Alkarama asked on 14 December 2015 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression (SR FREEDEX) to urge the Jordanian authorities to revoke their decision.

Detained in Muwaqqar II high security prison in a situation of prolonged solitary confinement, a situation that the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (SRT) recognises as amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Qunaibi carried out a hunger strike from 15 December 2015 until 4 January 2016 to protest against his detention.

On 16 May 2016, following a decision by the Cassation Court, the State Security Court reconsidered Qunaibi's case and decided to reduce his sentence to one year of imprisonment. Qunaibi was released the following day.

"Notwithstanding his release, we regret that the State Security Court failed to recognise the arbitrary character of Qunaibi's detention. Had the State Security Court recognised that Qunaibi had been sentenced for merely expressing his opinion would have sent a strong message that freedom of expression can never be subjected to prosecution," comments Inès Osman, Legal Officer for the Mashreq at Alkarama. "The Jordanian authorities must stop resorting to vague provisions in the Penal Code to refer civilians before the State Security Court only to silence their critical voices. As a party to the International Covenant and Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) since March 1975, Jordan has an obligation to respect freedom of expression, association and assembly at all times."

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