Jordan jails teen activist for burning king's picture
Published Thursday, January 26, 2012
A Jordanian political activist was sentenced on Thursday to two years in prison for undermining King Abdullah II's dignity, after he set alight a picture of the monarch this month.
"The [military] state security court sentenced Uday Abu Issa, 18, to two years in jail. He has been found guilty of undermining the king's dignity," a judicial official said.
Abu Issa had confessed to setting alight the picture after tearing it off a municipal wall in Madaba, south of Amman, saying he was upset over the death of a municipal worker who set himself on fire after his contract was terminated.
Human Rights Watch has urged state security prosecutors to drop charges against Abu Issa, who has apologized to the king in a letter sent by his lawyer.
"Burning a royal's image as a political statement should not be criminally prosecuted," said Christoph Wilcke, senior HRW Middle East researcher.
"To prosecute this act would send a chilling message that criticizing the king is off limits."
A local activist in Madaba, Ibrahim Buraizat, said the incident reflects a growing frustration in Jordan linked to popular Arab Spring demonstrations across the region demanding better living conditions.
"It's an extension of what many of our Arab brethren are doing in Tunisia, Egypt or Libya...In the sense [that] what happened here in Jordan is not different from what happened anywhere else in the Arab world." he told Al-Akhbar.
Buraizat said Arab people had long suffered under poor political and economic policies, and now "it's the right of Arab societies to ask for reform, change and the improvement of their social conditions."
Although Buraizat did not explicitly condone the burning of the king's picture, he did highlight the right of people to demand reforms.
"What happened is natural, and is the right of people to call for reform."