AMMAN (Reuters) - Prominent Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood figure Zaki Bani Rushaid went on trial on Monday on charges of “souring ties with a foreign country” after he criticized the United Arab Emirates for designating his organization as a terrorist group.
Asked whether he was guilty, a defiant Bani Rushaid told a military judge presiding at a state security court he had not “committed any crime that warranted being held accountable for”.
The mainstream Islamist politician, who is deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood, was arrested a month ago after writing on social media that the rulers of the United Arab Emirates lacked popular legitimacy and served Israel’s interests by playing a leading role in a crackdown on political Islam.
Bani Rushaid’s remarks followed the UAE’s move to designate as terrorist around 80 Islamist groups and charities that the Gulf state views as a security threat.
His arrest, on charges that 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.
Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, 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 local and international rights activists who accuse the authorities of eroding freedom of expression and putting dissidents on trial in unconstitutional military courts.
Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Dominic Evans