Jordan's First Woman MP Receives Royal Pardon

Jordan's first woman MP, jailed for seditious libel, has been pardonned by King Abdullah. Toujan Faisal had been on hunger strike since being sent to prison.

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By  David Cass Published  June 27, 2002

Jordan’s first woman member of parliament has been given a royal pardon after being imprisoned by the State Security Court on libel charges during May. Toujan Faisal continues to deny the charges and has been under guard in hospital since going on hunger strike shortly after being sent to jail.

Human rights groups in Jordan had been fiercely critical of the 18 month sentence. Faisal had been accused on four counts of seditious libel and tarnishing the image of Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb after sending an open letter on an internet site to King Abdullah accusing the Prime Minister of seeking personal gains by doubling vehicle insurance premiums and amending the Income Tax Law. The prime minister owns shares in an insurance company.

Faisal had lost her parliamentary seat when she stood for re-election in 1997. Parliament was dissolved last year and new elections are expected at the end of 2002. The Royal pardon specifically did not overturn the court’s verdict. Observers in Jordan believe that this would disqualify her from standing for election again.

Local activists described the trial and verdict as “a dangerous precedent” and a “direct threat” against anyone who criticizes the government. They said the trial and conviction were a severe indictment of Jordan’s claim to champion freedom of the press. The evidence which led to the trial was all based on the former MPs internet publications and media interviews.

The international rights group Amnesty International said the sentence breached international human rights treaties, which Jordan had ratified. When the trial ended Amnesty issued a statement saying, “As we feared, the Jordanian courts are using new measures supposedly introduced to fight terrorism to clamp down on the individual’s exercise of the right to criticize government policy.”

The court found her press statements and email to the King to be “harmful to the country's image and tantamount to fanning unrest.”

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