A court has sentenced the Muslim Brotherhood’s second in command in Jordan to 18 months in prison for criticising the UAE.
Zaki Bani Ersheid was arrested in November last year for condemning Jordan’s ally, the UAE, after it labelled the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation.
He was charged with harming Jordan’s relationship with a friendly country.
His lawyer, Saleh al-Armouti, claimed the sentence was politically motivated and said: “It's the death of freedom of speech and a sword that hangs over anyone who dares express his personal view.”
Dozens of Brotherhood supporters campaigned outside the court, chanting anti-government slogans after the sentence was announced.
Leadership of the Brotherhood in Jordan condemned the ruling, claiming the government was retreating from political reforms they had promised, adding in a statement that the verdict “represses freedoms and confiscates the rights of individuals”.
A number of Arab countries, including Egypt and the UAE, have adopted a tougher stance on Islamist groups in recent months and the Muslim Brotherhood has been banned in Egypt and labelled a terrorist network in other states.
The organisation, which maintains it is peaceful, remains active in Jordanian politics and as the second largest political grouping in the country enjoy significant grassroots support.
However, it has been affected by the country’s crackdown on Isis, following the murder of a Jordanian pilot, who was burnt alive by militants in Syria.
In response to the murder, Jordan intensified its airstrikes on Isis in Syria, specifically around the town of Raqqa.
UAE, a major financial backer of Jordan, has participated in a number of these US-led airstrikes on Isis, alongside its ally.
In response to the ruling, some ministers suggested that the Brotherhood should be banned from operating as a political party, as part of a more hardline approach towards the organisation.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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