Outrage after Jordan officer sentenced to five years in prison over Facebook post
A Jordanian army officer was sentenced to five years in prison by a military court on Sunday over a Facebook post he made criticising the government’s handling of a public health crisis in 2021.
Nidal Tarazi, a 29-year-old officer, posted on Facebook about the March 2021 Al-Salt hospital incident, in which ten Covid-19 patients died due to a lack of oxygen at the hospital causing national outcry.
He was detained shortly after and kept in detention for roughly nine months until his ruling on Sunday, his brother, Moutaz Tarazi, told The New Arab.
Tarazi’s prison sentence triggered outrage, with Jordanians tweeting the hashtag "We want justice for Nidal".
The harsh sentence of the officer for the social media post has been contrasted to the relatively light one given to the director of Al-Salt Hospital, who received three years in jail for "causing the deaths" the ten patients.
Ziad al-Majali, a lawyer working with the National Forum for Defending Freedoms, told The New Arab that Tarazi’s jail term was "harsher" than usual sentences that are handed in these sort of situations and disproportionate with the alleged crime.
He added that though not all the details of the case are known yet, his sentence could have been particularly harsh because he was tried as an army officer in a military court.
Tarazi was convicted on five charges: Incitement and sedition, abuse of military institutions, insulting the king ("lengthening the tongue against the king"), destabilising the security of the country, and undermining the state, according to Moutaz.
Jordan is generally more tolerant of dissent than its neighbours, Syria, Iraq and Egypt, but in recent years civil freedoms have been gradually curtailed.
In 2021, Freedom House downgraded Jordan to "Not Free" from its previous score of "Partly Free", citing new restrictions on freedom of assembly and on civil society.
"I want to send a message to King Abdullah II: We are the children of this country, and we are your children. Where are the rights of your son [Nidal]?" Moutaz said.
The New Arab asked the Jordanian embassy in Beirut for a comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publishing.