The deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan was sentenced on Sunday to 18 months in prison for criticizing the United Arab Emirates in a Facebook post.
The state security court, a special body that has jurisdiction over Jordan’s internal and external threats, found the Brotherhood leader, Zaki Bani Rushaid, guilty of “acts harmful to the country’s relations with a friendly nation.”
On his personal Facebook page, Mr. Bani Rushaid wrote on Nov. 17 that the Emirates, an important ally of Jordan and one of several countries in the region, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, that have engaged in a campaign to wipe out the Brotherhood, plays the role of the “American cop in the region, supports coups and is a cancer in the body of the Arab world.”
The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan condemned the verdict in a statement released on Sunday. The arrest of Mr. Bani Rushaid, under a recently strengthened antiterrorism law, was “politically motivated and demonstrates a deliberate escalation by the state against the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan,” the statement said. “It is a blow to freedom of speech and the rights of citizens.”
Standing inside a black cage in the courtroom, Mr. Bani Rushaid reacted stoically to the verdict. His lawyer, Saleh Armouti, looked at his client and said, “May God bring you no harm.” Mr. Armouti added that he planned to appeal. Mr. Bani Rushaid has been detained since November, and the time he has served will be deducted from his sentence.
“This is a shame, a shame,” shouted a small crowd outside the court after hearing the verdict. Some held posters of Mr. Bani Rushaid. Mr. Armouti angrily pointed his finger in the air and, referring to King Abdullah II of Jordan, said: “Where is justice, your majesty? This is death for freedom of expression. The government is to blame. Where is the government?”
Ali Abul Sukkar, a Brotherhood member who was among the protesters, said, “This court is a military court for the most heinous crimes against the country, not for a well-known figure who expresses an opinion on Facebook.”
“There is no logical and just decision to this,” he added. “It is purely political.”
It was the first arrest and conviction of an opposition leader in recent years, although a Brotherhood member, Mohammad Said Bakr, was taken into custody in September and given a six-month sentence after he harshly criticized the Jordanian authorities for what he suggested was a tepid response to the Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip last summer.
The Muslim Brotherhood is Jordan’s main opposition party, but unlike Egypt, Jordan has long tolerated the organization’s presence. In recent months, the Brotherhood movement here has had its own internal disputes, chiefly between the moderate and conservative factions. The movement’s more liberal wing has called for internal reform and changes in policies.
The movement is known for its passionate advocacy of diminishing the relatively unchecked power of the king. Yet it has never called for the overthrow of the monarchy, even during the headiest days of the Arab Spring.
After Mr. Bani Rushaid’s arrest, the government noted the importance of the country’s relations with the United Arab Emirates, where about 250,000 Jordanians work and which have provided considerable financial aid to Jordan. The Emirates have also used Jordan as a base to conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State.