May 17, 2002
His Majesty King Abdullah Ibn Hussein
C/o Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
3504 International Drive, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Via facsimile: 202-966-3110
The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to protest the 18-month prison sentence handed down yesterday against Toujan al-Faisal, a writer and former member of Jordan’s Parliament.
A State Security Court in Amman convicted al-Faisal of publishing “false information abroad,” “harming the dignity of the state and undermining the reputation of the state and its individuals,” and “incitement to unrest,” a source at the hearing told CPJ.
The case against al-Faisal came after she penned an open letter to Your Majesty in the Houston-based online publication Arab Times in March accusing Prime Minister Ali Aboul Ragheb of corruption.
In the letter, al-Faisal alleged that the prime minister owns several insurance firms and stood to gain financially from a new mandatory increase in insurance premiums for automobiles.
She had also recently criticized the Jordanian government on a number of satellite television stations, including the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera.
Zayd al-Radaydeh, one of al-Faisal’s lawyers, told CPJ that her entire defense team refused to appear in court during last week’s final two sessions to protest what they saw as unfair proceedings.
Al-Radaydeh said that the team was prevented from mounting a proper defense when the judges refused their requests to call Prime Minister Aboul Ragheb as a witness.
Although Security Court decisions are considered final, al-Faisal’s lawyers told CPJ that they plan to submit an appeal to the Court of Cassation to challenge the constitutionality of the laws under which al-Faisal was charged.
Al-Faisal has been in detention since March 16.
Your Majesty has repeatedly stated that “the sky is the limit” for freedom of expression and the press in Jordan. Yet in October 2001, the government adopted harsh new Penal Code amendments to stifle the press.
Since then, a number of journalists have been arrested in connection with their writing, and reporters and newspapers have been censored.
The use of criminal statutes to prosecute journalists for what they write violates the right to free expression guaranteed under international law. We remind Your Majesty that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the right to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, CPJ calls on Your Majesty to do everything within your power to ensure that Toujan al-Faisal is freed immediately.
Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We look forward to a reply.