AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordan arrested the deputy head of the country’s Muslim Brotherhood on Thursday for criticizing the UAE’s move to designate the Islamist political movement and its local affiliates a terrorist group, official sources said.
Zaki Bani Rushaid was detained shortly after a late night meeting at the party’s headquarters in Amman, these people said, marking the first arrest of a major political opposition figure in Jordan in recent years.
The state security prosecutor general ordered his arrest on charges of “souring relations with a friendly country” after he wrote an opinion column attacking the Gulf state’s role in a regional crackdown on political Islam, the sources said.
Jordan has long clamped down on dissent against Gulf monarchies that are political allies and the kingdom’s main financial backers.
In the column that appeared on various websites and in social media, Bani Rusheid said UAE rulers were “the first sponsor of terrorism and had no legitimacy.” It was published shortly after the UAE on Saturday formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group.
“The leadership of the UAE is playing the role of American policeman in the area and performs the dirtiest roles to help the Zionist project and is behind all destructive acts against the Muslim and Arab nations’ aspirations,” Bani Rushaid said.
The UAE move underscores concern in most of the U.S.-allied Gulf monarchies about political Islam and the influence of the Brotherhood, whose Sunni Islamist doctrines challenge the principle of dynastic rule.
Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood is the country’s biggest political opposition party. It has operated legally for decades and has substantial grass-roots support in major urban centers.
The party demanded the immediate release of Bani Rushaid.
“We reject this unjustified arrest in this heavy-handed manner of a prominent national figure,” the Brotherhood statement said.
In contrast to a tough crackdown facing their ideological counterparts in Egypt and in the Gulf oil producing countries, Jordanian authorities have tolerated the Brotherhood’s presence.
Jordan has, however, arrested several members of the group in recent months for publicly criticizing the Jordanian government for not taking stronger measures to censure Israel after its war against Gaza.
The Brotherhood are Jordan’s most vocal opponents within the mainstream opposition of peace with Israel and pro-Western policies by the kingdom. It demands sweeping political reforms without calling for the overthrow of the country’s monarchy.
Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Chris Reese, Gunna Dickson and Andrew Hay