Last updated: 31 March, 2012

Amnesty urges Jordan to free political activists

Amnesty International on Saturday urged Jordan to free six political activists charged with insulting King Abdullah II, as police broke up a demonstration in Amman demanding their release.

The human rights watchdog “is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of six pro-reform activists held for ‘insulting’ the king,” it said in a statement.

“Amnesty International believes them to be prisoners of conscience held solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and that they are being punished for their pro-reform views and peaceful activities.”

The six men were arrested and charged by military prosecutors in mid-March after a demonstration in the southern city of Tafileh.

If convicted, the six face three years in prison each.

“According to information by Amnesty International, at least three of them were beaten by security forces during initial interrogations,” the London-based organisation said.

Opposition Islamists have demanded the authorities free the activists, and demonstrations have been held in Tafileh and Amman to protest at their detention.

On Saturday, around 200 members of youth movements demonstrated near the prime minister’s office in Amman to demand the release of the activists before police dispersed the protest, an AFP reporter said.

“Police arrested several demonstrators after they refused to stop chanting against the regime,” one protester told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But a police statement said “some protesters were arrested for breaking the law and insulting security officials,” adding that the demonstration “was not peaceful.”

“Those who were arrested will be interrogated and sent to court,” it said.

Jordanians have been protesting since January last year demanding sweeping political and economic reforms and an end to corruption.

“Restrictions on the right to criticise the authorities or state institutions persist in Jordan and journalists, activists and others continue to face arrest and prosecution,” Amnesty said.

The military State Security Court this month released an 18-year-old political activist from jail after the king pardoned him for burning a picture of the monarch.