By Ala’a Mazloum
The anti-terrorism law is “ambiguous” according to Thabet Al-Assaf, spokesman and head of public relations for the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan.
Al-Assaf said the law made “any action committed by a civilian subject to arrest and to trial before the state security military court”.
The comments came as the spokesman addressed the arrest of Zaki Ben Rashid, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Jordanian. Rashid was arrested on 21 November after being accused of threatening Jordanian-Emirati relations, and is scheduled to face a military trial on 22 December, according to the spokesman.
The charges relate to posts Ben Rashid made on his Facebook page, in which he accused the UAE of being an “American cop in the region”. He also said the UAE “supports coups” and is a “cancer in the Arab world”.
The posts, which have since been removed, were published after the UAE listed the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation on 15 November.
The Egyptian cabinet designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation in December 2013 and Saudi Arabia followed in March 2014.
Qatar has resisted pressure and even hosted some Brotherhood leaders in exile, a policy that created tension with its Gulf neighbours. Many withdrew their diplomatic missions from Doha in response.
In recent months, several Brotherhood leaders have quietly left Qatar, and in November it and other GCC countries restored full diplomatic relations, causing speculation the Brotherhood was losing its GCC foothold.
In a possible sign of shifting attitudes in top policymaking circles in the Hashemite kingdom, Abdulla II himself has become more critical of the Brotherhood. In a 4 December interview with American talk show host Charlie Rosie, King Abdulla said the Brotherhood “is an organised entity that has hijacked the Arab Spring”.
King Abdulla added that when the Brotherhood was asked to join the national dialogue for reform, the Brotherhood refused even after the series of demands they made were met.
According to King Abdullah, the brotherhood asked for constitutional change, the creation of a constitutional court and a national dialogue for reforms, all of which have been made.
Al-Assaf, the Brotherhood spokesman in Jordan said the arrest warrant for Ben Rashid was issued for “purely Jordanian political reasons”. He went on to say that “the UAE had nothing to do with the arrest warrant and was not bothered by what Shiekh Ben Rashid said”.
The spokesman added: “The warrant was issued to be used only as an excuse to call the Muslim Brotherhood for a national dialogue. We [the Muslim Brotherhood] refuse to be pressured into participating in the dialogue under the rules of the regime”.
“With the instability in the region, Jordan is trying to maintain its status quo and refuses to be affected by the instability. The regime seeks a way to launch a political dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood”, added Al-Assaf. “The arrest was only a way to bring the Brotherhood in a weaker position to participate in the dialogue and thus agree on what the regime has to propose.”
According to Hassan Momami, Professor of International Relations at the University of Jordan, “Ben Rashid has been arrested for breaching the Jordanian constitutional [anti-terrorism] law”.
He said: “The movement has been recognised by the Jordanian state and has been functioning as a political party.” He added that the movement has not crossed any “red lines”, and has not caused a threat to the Jordanian monarch, even during the peak of the Arab Spring.
Omar Atout, a Jordanian lawyer who opposes Islamic politicisation and calls for secular rule, condemned the arrest of Ben Rashid.
Atout said the anti-terrorism law justifies the charges issued against Ben Rashid. However, the words of the deputy leader do not pose a potential threat on Jordanian-Emirate relations as it is simply an expression of his opinion.
“The Jordanian constitution protects freedom of expression and what Ben Rashid said was merely expressing his opinion,” said Atout. “There is a law that address hate speech/blasphemy and that is the law breached by Ben Rashid and could be used to justify charges issued against him.”
“The anti-terrorism law is very generic and is now used by state security to arrest anyone who voices an opinion that goes against the regime’s ideologies. The Muslim Brotherhood leaders and members are not the only ones being arrested,” added Atout. “Anti- Islamic activists, secular and youth activists who voice an opposing opinion to that of the regime’s have been arrested under the anti-terrorism law.”