General: Jordan: Judiciary refuses to replace imprisonment sentences for three activists with fines

01.05.21

On 02 April 2020, the Amman Magistrate's Penal Court rejected for the fifth time in a row the request to replace a three-month prison sentence with a fine for three teachers and civil society activists, Layla Hadidoun, Mohammad Seriwa and Bakr Al-Qatawneh. They were charged under the Cyber ​​Crime Law in connection with posts they published on social media.

The same court also refused, on the same day, a similar request by Internet activist Ali Qandil Sarsour, who was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for the same reasons.

These decisions have caused widespread reactions that denounced this continuous rejection, particularly with regard to the case of Hadidoun, the mother of three children aged between 10 and 15 years old who live with her alone due to her husband's work outside Jordan, leaving her to take care of them in all aspects of life. Solidarity with her has been widespread, and posts spread on Facebook pages in her defense, using the hashtag: #Remove_injustice_from_Laila

Hadidoun declared her solidarity with the Jordan Teachers’ Syndicate (JTS) and with her colleagues, and a lawsuit was launched against her because of what she wrote on her Facebook page, leading to the three-month prison sentence.

This photo above, which contains a post that Hadidoun published on her Facebook page, among other publications, has been considered defamation of an official body. In this post, she conveys her personal perspective as an educator, describing the marriage between remote and classroom education as "hybrid".

The spokesman for the JTS, Noureddin Nadim, explained in press statements that, "The reason behind the imprisonment of this teacher is a lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Education against her after she criticised the former Minister of Education."

A legal advisor for the JTS, human rights lawyer Bassam Freihat, spoke in a TV interview about these issues related to freedom of expression and the targeting of the JTS, saying, "They did not commit any act that is punishable in the first place." The case is about "expression of opinion on social media in support of the issues of teachers and their union," and he called the decision not to accept a fine "surprising." He referred to the existence of two cases before the Court of Appeal, the first related to the dissolution of the JTS and the imprisonment of its members, and the second to the dissolution of the Syndicate Council. He added, "We hope that the right decision will be handed down and the previous decisions issued against the JTS will be cancelled ... as it did not commit any act that necessitates all these decisions issued against it."

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) strongly condemns the prison sentences issued against Laylaa Hadidoun, Mohammed Seriwa, Bakr Al-Qatawneh, and Qandil Sarsour, relating to their legitimate rights to freedom of expression on the Internet, and calls on the competent authorities to overturn them without any restrictions or conditions.

GCHR calls on the Jordanian government to stop all legal measures against the JTS, to fully restore it, and to fully restore legal consideration to its administrative bodies, including the Syndicate council, the Central Committee, and the branch bodies. The duty of the government is to protect union activities and not to fight it with arbitrary decisions that contradict the constitution and human rights principles.