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Court dismisses ‘constitutional challenge’ in Bani Rsheid case

By Taylor Luck - Jan 04,2015 - Last updated at Jan 04,2015

AMMAN — The State Security Court (SSC) on Sunday threw out an appeal challenging the constitutionality of the trial of Muslim Brotherhood deputy overall leader Zaki Bani Rsheid for harming Jordan’s ties with the United Arab Emirates.

In its appeal, the defence team, headed by former Jordan Bar Association president Saleh Armouti, cited Articles 15 and 128 of the Constitution that guarantee freedom of expression for all citizens and render any law violating free expression “unconstitutional”.

Bani Rsheid is on trial over a Facebook post critical of the UAE.

The defence team also cited a decision issued by a civilian state prosecutor in Deir Alla in November last year challenging the SSC’s jurisdiction to try cases related to statements or actions deemed “harmful to Jordan’s relations with a foreign state”, claiming that the charges fall under Article 118 of the Penal Code and should be referred to civilian courts. 

The defence team called for the right to challenge the case in the Court of Cassation.

In its reply, the SSC, headed by military judge Raed Izmiqna, stressed the constitutionality of its jurisdiction, stressing that “the court has and continues since its founding to operate under the Constitution” and that the Anti-Terrorism Law is “constitutional”.

The court moved to continue deliberations in a session on January 11 devoted to hearing the defence’s witnesses.

In a double blow to Bani Rsheid’s defence, the court refused to grant bail to the Brotherhood leader for the second time.

The defence team noted that Sunday’s rulings posed a “serious setback” to their attempt to clear the Muslim Brotherhood deputy leader of terror charges, calling their defence an “uphill battle”.

“We are now going to continue with our second argument, which is that Zaki Bani Rsheid’s statements did in no way whatsoever affect Jordan’s ties with the Emirates,” Armouti said.

Authorities arrested Bani Rsheid outside the Brotherhood’s Amman headquarters on November 20, 2014 in response to a hyper-critical statement posted on Facebook in which he accused the UAE of promoting “Zionist” foreign policies and indirectly sponsoring “extremism” in the region.

Bani Rsheid maintains that the statement represented political speech protected under the Constitution, which officials refute, noting that he violated the law.

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