Two political opposition figures detained in Jordan to head off protests

Two political opposition figures detained in Jordan to head off protests
3 min read
15 November, 2022
Jordan often uses the practice of "preventative detention" to squash political dissent.
The protests were planned to commemorate Arab Spring protests ten years earlier. [Getty]

Two high-ranking members of the Islamic Action Front (IAF) – the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and Jordan's main opposition party – were arrested on Monday as authorities sought to head off protests.

Hamad al-Harout and Thabet al-Aasaf, two leading members of the IAF, were arrested by security forces amid calls for protests in Madaba, a city just south of the capital Amman. Aasaf was released on Monday night, but al-Harout is still in detention.

Others were also arrested alongside the two IAF members, but The New Arab was unable to verify how many or under what charges they were detained.

The demonstrations were planned to commemorate Arab Spring protests a decade earlier and express grievances against Jordan's worsening economic conditions.

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Al-Harout was taken into "precautionary detention" early on Monday, according to IAF party spokesperson and former MP Dima Tahboub.

Al-Aasaf, the secretary-general of the IAF, said he was arrested at a checkpoint alongside other activists while en route to a protest.

He told TNA that the arrest of him and the other activists were an "assault on the constitution … and on the rights of the general public."

"These arrests do not offer a good sign of the government's intention to support democracy … and clashes with the claims of political development," Tahboub told TNA.

The spokesperson for Jordan's Public Security Directorate did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publishing.

In recent years, Jordanian authorities started the practice of arresting activists they suspected might participate in protests before the events being held. Activists are often arrested on the day of or before protests and held in detention until the demonstrations finish.

Human rights activists have condemned the practice as a form of arbitrary arrest.

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"If there is a call for a protest in the streets, they will detain people from morning until night to foil the protest. This is a new practice used in the last two years or so," Malak Abu Oraibi, a human rights lawyer, told TNA.

Protests in Jordan are relatively common, particularly as the country's economy continues to worsen. Youth unemployment sits around 50 per cent, and prices have increased across the board alongside global economic trends.

Jordan embarked on a mission to 'modernise' its political system and passed a series of constitutional amendments meant to increase the role of political parties last in December 2021.

Analysts, however, have said that the amendments have actually increased the monarch's power at the expense of parliament, the country's elected legislative body.

Despite the attempts for reform, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that authorities have “crushed” civic space over the previous four years.

"Authorities use vague and abusive laws that criminalise speech, association and assembly," HRW said in a September report, calling on the government to halt the "downward spiral on rights."