Agence France Presse reported Thursday that Jordan has added new controversial articles to its anti-terrorism law in its effort to stop local jihadists from heading to Syria to fight in the country's ongoing war.
On Tuesday, Jordan MPs approved articles that make "joining or attempting to join armed or terrorist groups, or recruiting or attempting to recruit people to join these groups" acts of terrorism.
The new articles further make "acts that would expose Jordan or Jordanians to the danger of acts of aggression, or harm the kingdom's relations with another country" illegal.
The punishment for committing such acts, which include "the use of information technology, the Internet or any means of publication or media, or the creation of a website, to facilitate terrorist acts or back groups that promote, support or fund terrorism," is the death penalty.
The new articles are largely in response to the fact that hundreds of Jordanians who have gone to Syria to fight with Islamist rebel groups such as the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are now returning home to the Kingdom.
"Jordan is surrounded by jihadist groups and there is a serious terrorist threat to the kingdom. I think terrorism might find a suitable environment in Jordan. This environment is still isolated and limited, but at the same it is connected to regional developments, including Syria," Oraib Rantawi, director of Amman's Al Quds Center for Political Studies told AFP.
"The new amendments came to face the challenges imposed on Jordan by the conflict in Syria," Hassan Abu Hanieh, an expert on Islamist groups, told AFP.
"Syria has become a major attraction for jihadists, creating a key challenge to the region and the entire world. The changes in the law were made specifically to deal with this issue," he added.
However, many have been critical of the laws.
"We are all against terrorism and terrorism is punishable in the penal code and other laws. But the anti-terrorism law in its new form restricts freedoms and could harm the country's image," said MP Mahmud Kharabsheh.
"The amendments can be used to serve goals that are not related to fighting terrorism. They are a sign we are turning into a police state," said Zaki Bani Rsheid, the deputy leader of the Brotherhood.
Jordan's leadership has "repeatedly" expressed concern over the fact that the Kingdom may suffer from a Syrian civil war spillover effect, particularly in terms of more jihadists entering the Kingdom. However, officials say the new articles "have nothing to do with Syria."
"In recent years, many Jordanians traveled to Syria, Iraq and other countries to join jihadist groups. Jordan is worried about that, particularly that Amman considers those who return after jihad as a security threat," Rantawi added.
Jordan's first anti-terrorism law was passed in 2006 after three bombings in Amman killed 60 people in 2005.
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