AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordan on Monday charged a top member of the Muslim Brotherhood with “souring ties with a foreign country” by criticizing the UAE after it designated his group as a terrorist organization.
Zaki Bani Rushaid, deputy leader of the Jordanian branch of the Brotherhood, was arrested last month after saying on social media the UAE’s rulers lacked popular legitimacy and served Israel’s interests by playing a leading role in a crackdown on political Islam.
The arrest of Bani Rushaid, initially held for 15 days pending investigation over charges which carry a minimum prison term of three years, is the first such detention of a senior opposition politician in Jordan in recent years.
Some politicians said privately the arrest was made under pressure from the Gulf state.
Bani Rushaid’s remarks followed the UAE’s move last month to designate as “terrorist” around 80 Islamist groups and charities that the Gulf state views as a security threat.
Compared with the tough crackdowns on Islamist groups in Egypt and Gulf countries, Jordanian authorities have been relatively tolerant of the Brotherhood’s presence.
Jordan has, however, arrested several members of the group in recent months for publicly criticizing the government for not taking stronger measures to censure Israel after the Gaza war earlier this year.
Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood is the country’s biggest opposition party, has operated legally for decades and has substantial grassroots support.
Bani Rushaid’s arrest has caused an outcry among supporters and activists who accuse the authorities of eroding freedom of expression and putting dissidents on trial in unconstitutional military courts.
A judicial source said he expected a trial soon but gave no date.
Jordanian authorities said Bani Rushaid’s comments could have jeopardized tens of thousands of Jordanian expatriates employed in the UAE, who could have faced retaliatory measures.
Jordan has long clamped down on dissent against Gulf monarchies that are political allies and the kingdom’s main financial backers.
Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by Andrew Roche