Voices remembering the case of the Jordanian journalist, Tayseer Najjar seem to be fading in Jordan as he is about to finish 3-year-old jail sentence in UAE by the end of 2018.
However, Najjar’s freedom is linked with paying a fine of 500,000 UAE Dirhams (USD 136,000) by the end of his sentence in order to be freed, otherwise, he will be jailed for another period of time.
Najjar’s story started in 2015, when he wanted to board a flight back to Jordan to visit his family yet he was prevented. Later on, the UAE authorities took Najjar to a police station in Abu Dhabi and detained him for over a year when he was denied access to any lawyers.
In March 2017, the Emirati state-run news agency reported that Najjar is convicted under article 29 of the country’s cybercrime law and sentenced to three years in prison, followed by a fine of over 500,000 UAE Dirhams over “damaging the reputation of the UAE and its symbols”. He is also due to be deported back to Jordan after he serves his prison sentence.
Translation: “To those who are wondering who is Tayseer Najjar, he is a Jordanian journalist who was arrested in 2015 at UAE after he went there for work, because of a FB post from 2014, in which he criticized UAE and Egypt’s role in the Israeli war on Gaza.”
The stunning fact of Najjar’s three year conviction is that the facebook post in question was shared on his private account a year before entering the UAE. In the post, he criticized the Emirati and Egyptian decisions to destroy underground tunnels in Gaza during the Israeli war on Gaza in 2014. He was also questioned about expressing his support for resistance in Gaza, criticizing the Emirati authorities and Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
According to his wife, Majida Hourani, he was also investigated over two Facebook posts were posted in 2012, when he allegedly criticized the Gulf Cooperation Council countries which he denied.
Currently, Jordanian social media activists are trying to bring the focus back to Tayseer Najjar, aiming to help his wife collect the amount of money needed to pay his fine.
Hashtag “الحرية تيسير النجار”, which literally translates to: “Freedom for Tayseer Najjar”, has been trending in Jordan with activists reminding the government of Najjar’s case.
One of the tweets that addressed Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi regarding all details related to Najjar’s story found a response by the minister himself who replied to it.
Translation: “Your Excellency, I hope you can clarify Tayseer Najjar’s case.. The man was sentenced over a Facebook post which any Jordanian can face. Sofian replied to me before but I wish you can get him out of the fine problem through a deal so he can return back to his family. Oppression will be a darkness on the Day of Resurrection [Islamic Hadith].”
Safadi replied to the tweet.
Translation: “The embassy has followed his case since the beginning and our representatives attended the court sessions and visit him regularly. But there is a judicial order in a neighbour country that we respect and have strong relations, where more than 100,000 Jordanians live. Be sure that we follow the topic according to the law and we keep providing all available assistance.”
Lina Shannak also counted that Najjar will be jailed for another 13 years in case he did not pay the due fine, urging people to take a step and help his family.
Translation: “This is how many years Najjar will serve in case he did not pay the fine that amounts to 100,000 JDs. Support him and donate to pay the fine.”
Other activists went to share a video filmed for his wife while explaining the needed amount of money urging people to help so he can return back to his wife and five children.
Translation: “This is a daily reminder of the Jordanian Tayseer Najjar who no one is able to interfere and let UAE free him so he can return back to his family who did not see him in three years.”
While the Jordanian government and Press Association (JPA) faced mounting pressure to interfere and end Najjar’s difficult situation, the JPA said they appointed al-Najjar’s lawyer who would work to appeal the verdict. However, nothing had been changed.
Translation: “Tayseer’s dignity is every Jordanian’s one. Unfortunately, the Jordanian government and the Jordan Press Association abandoned him and the biggest proof that they did not ensure paying his fine.”
Najjar’s case brings back to minds the Emirati crackdown on freedom of speech and intolerance of criticism that has increased noticeably since 2011.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Emirati government is arbitrarily detaining individuals who criticize the authorities. This all comes despite the fact that UAE has ratified the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which in article 32 protects the right to freedom of expression and in article 13 protects the right to a fair trial.
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