Jordanian Military court accuses Journalist of undermining country
By Ali Younes
He was designated by the military prosecutor as a “special case” and “very dangerous criminal” thus he was led in and out court with his hands tied behind his back, his legs,neck and waist shackled in iron making him looking like the movie character the vicious serial killer “Hannibal Lector”. Jordanian journalist and civic leader Husam Abdallat was denied bail last week on charges that he tried to “undermine the Jordanian state” because of his criticism of certain political officials of corruption.
He was sentenced last year to a year in jail by the State Security Court for ” undermining the country” which typically can mean anything, from verbal criticism to violent terrorism.
Abdallat’s cardinal sin was that he dared to speak out against very powerful politicians who along with their allies comprise the Jordanian “deep state “that controls all levers of political and economic power in the country. Abdallat owned the TV channel “Jordan future” now shut down,through which he aired public information against misconduct of public figures. The State Security Court which typically deals with cases of terrorism had convicted him last year of the charges he was accused of. Abdallat and his team of lawyers led by top lawyer Ahmad Najdawi took the case to the court of Cassation which is equivalent to the US Supreme court and won the case for his client.
The ruling of the Court of Cassation, which is the highest court in Jordan, is unprecedented because it invalidated the ruling of Jordan’s most powerful and controversial court considered the legal arm of the Jordanian military and its intelligences services against political dissent, opposition leaders, intellectuals, Journalists as well as individuals accused of terrorism.
Confidential sources inside Jordan told the Arab Daily News that the whole case against abdallat was in fact an act of revenge by the country’s General intelligence ” the Mukhabarat” for naming the names of powerful individuals who are widely believed to be operating under a whiff of corruption.
Last week’s ruling of the high court stipulated that State Security Court had no probable cause to convict Abdallat because his criticism was not in of itself a discovery of new information that warranted the charges against him in the first place. Thus the conviction of the crime was in violation of the law, the court argued.
Many legal scholars in the country consider the State Security Court as “unconstitutional “
Thus, for the Abdallat case, the ruling is significant because his earlier conviction was overturned on the grounds thatthe State Security Court, had no probable cause to convict in the first place which in essence stating that Abdallat committed no crime. But that was not the end of it.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch and the committee to protect Journalists in New York told the Arab Daily News, that they are investigating the case against Abdallat and intend to include his case in their country report.
Abdallat’s case is both unique and strange. While Abdallat is a journalist who advocates political and economic reform, he had worked for many years as an advisor to the prime minister’s office, and currently holds the position of assistant to the minister of social affairs. Family members told the Arab Daily News that Abdallat was cleared to work as a journalist as well. He also comes from a prominent Jordanian family and that his father was an assistant to the late King Hussein for 40 years.
Abdallat is also the recipient of the Jordanian Medal of Independence which was bestowed upon him by King Abdullah II.
His case is strange because, according to several Jordanian journalists I talked to in Amman who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that it appears that there are mysterious powers that are pulling the strings in his case and pushing to put Abdallat away in jail regardless of the outcome of the court ruling. They also argued that Jordanian “deep state” is very similar to the corrupt elites that existed under the regime of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
When I asked the chief military attorney General, who runs the State Security Court, General Muhannad Hijazi if he personally have a vendetta against Abdallat that might explain his court insistence on prosecuting Abdallat over charges that in any civilized nation would fall under the category of “freedom of speech” or “freedom of the press” , he answered that “ I never met the man before” he also added that he is trying to uphold the Jordanian laws.
After Abdallat’s conviction was overturned by the highest court and returned to the State Security Court to reconsider its earlier conviction as stipulated by the law, the court instead, defied the higher court and upheld its own ruling that Abdallat was “ guilty” of trying to “undermine the state” meaning that the military court believes that Abdallat, a well known journalist who had never been in any legal troubles before, was capable rather single handedly of destroying the entire country culturally, politically, military and economically.
Hisham al Tal, the country’s minister of Justice told me that the court of Cassation will look into the case once more and will make the decision on it once the case reaches its docket
The case now will go back again to the higher court for a final ruling which is expected to come down in the next week or two.
Ali Younes is the Editor of the Arab Daily News. He can be reached at : aliyounes@thearabdailynews.
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