‘Uday Abu ‘Isa, an 18-year-old activist from Madaba, 40 kilometers south of Amman, and a member of the Youth Movement for Reform, ignited a large banner showing King Abdullah II that was hanging on the municipal building in Madaba, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. Such images adorn nearly every official building and office in Jordan. Security forces immediately arrested Abu ‘Isa, who is already on trial on similar charges for shouting slogans in December. The prosecutor also charged him with burning property.
“Burning a royal’s image as a political statement should not be criminally prosecuted,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “To prosecute this act would send a chilling message that criticizing the king is off limits.”
Abu ‘Isa’s father and fellow activists said on January 12 that they did not know his whereabouts, but media reports later that day said the military prosecutor at the State Security Court had charged Abu ‘Isa with “undermining his majesty’s dignity.” The charge is among several acts of lèse majesté, or insulting the king, for which article 195 of Jordan’s penal code imposes sentences of between one and three years in prison.
Abu ‘Isa’s father visited his son in Muwaqqar 1 prison on January 13 and 17, and told Human Rights Watch that he saw marks on his body Abu ‘Isa said were the result of a beating by police at Madaba’s Public Security Directorate on January 11.
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