Jordan bill to criminalize membership in 'terrorist' groups

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A Jordanian bill criminalizing membership in "terrorist" groups has been attacked by Salafists and by a human rights organization.

Yesterday [March 5], the Jordanian government sent to parliament an amended anti-terrorism bill providing for the criminalization of all Jordanians who fight in, join or seek to join a “radical” group, which the bill calls “terrorist” groups.

That bill clearly labels “terrorist” the thousands of Jordanian fighters in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and in many countries where there are conflicts and al-Qaeda is present. The bill came weeks after Saudi Arabia approved a similar law that it claimed was “aimed at radicals.”

Jordan’s parliament referred the bill to the legal committee. The government asked the committee to discuss the bill as soon as possible and said that the bill is “related to the situation in Syria,” where the events are affecting the kingdom.

To “crimes of terrorism,” the amended bill added “joining or trying to join any armed group or terrorist organization, or recruiting or trying to recruit people to join them, training them for this purpose, whether inside or outside the kingdom.” The bill also criminalizes “providing or managing funds, by any means, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of committing a terrorist act, or funding terrorists, whether or not the act happened inside or outside the kingdom.”

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The bill had other amendments about the issues of electronic publishing, referring to jihadist sites and forums that the bill called “extremist.” The bill criminalizes “the use of the information system, the information network or any means of publication or information, or the establishment of a website, to facilitate terrorist acts or support groups, organizations or associations that commit terrorist acts, promote their ideas or financing, or take any action that would expose Jordanians or their property to the risk of hostile or retaliatory acts.” The issue of publishing includes social networking sites and YouTube.

The bill redefined a terrorist act as “any action, inaction or threat of action, regardless of the motives, purposes or means, that is part of a criminal enterprise, whether individual or collective, that endangers society, causes civil strife, disrupts public order, terrorizes or intimidates people, exposes their lives to danger, damages the environment, public facilities, private property, international facilities or diplomatic missions; endangers national or economic resources, or compels legitimate, international or regional authorities to perform any act, prevent any act or prevent the application of the constitution, laws and regulations.”

The bill has amended some penalties contained in the old law, and stressed others. The bill stipulates punishing every terrorist act with five years of hard labor, and life imprisonment with hard labor “if the terrorist act causes damage, even if partial, to a public or private building, industrial institution, ship, aircraft or any means of transportation or facility, or if the act disabled communications or computer systems, or penetrated information networks.”

The bill also provides for the death penalty for anyone committing a terrorist act “if it leads to the death of a person, or if the terrorist act resulted in destroying a building, partially or completely, and if it contained one or more persons, or if the terrorist act was committed using explosive, flammable, toxic, bacteriological, chemical or radiological materials or weapons or ammunition, or similar materials.”

The law also penalizes a partner in the crime as if they were the main actor “if [the partner] participated in the crime, intervened, instigated or helped commit it, with the same penalty as the original actor, whether the crime was committed inside or outside the kingdom.”

The first reaction to the bill came from the jihadist Salafists in Jordan (al-Qaeda branch). The leader of the jihadists in the country’s south considered the amendments “aimed mainly at Jordanian fighters, from the organization’s members, in Syria.” Mohammad al-Shalabi, also known as Abu Sayyaf, told Al-Hayat, “The amendments aim to criminalize the Jordanian youth struggling in Syria in defense of the honor of Sunni Muslims. … The state’s military security court has tried more than 50 young people who returned from Syria or tried to go there, and sentenced them to prison of between two and a half years and five years. And today, they are amending the law to classify some 2,000 young people who are fighting there as terrorists and send them to prison for long periods of time.”

The director of the Arab Organization for Human Rights in Jordan, Abdul Karim al-Sharidah, accused Jordanian authorities of “working to terrorize citizens through laws that violate rights and target freedoms.” In a statement to Al-Hayat, he warned that the law may be used “to target political activists. … The legislative policy in Jordan is not clear and marred by several interventions from various quarters, which produce laws that violate the policy of promoting democracy and human rights.”

But the Jordanian government has rejected the accusations made by the human rights organization and stressed that the law would be used only against those involved in terrorist acts.

In a related matter, the commander of Jordan’s border guard Brig. Gen. Hussein al-Zoyoud said, “The most important challenge facing the Jordanian border guards near the Jordan-Syria border are infiltration attempts by extremist armed groups from and to Jordan.” During a long tour on Thursday evening [March 6] at the northeastern border, he said, “We have clear instructions to prevent extremist groups and individuals from crossing [the border] illegally.” He stressed that the border guards “are committed to the rules of engagement at the border if there are illegal extremist infiltrators. … We will defend ourselves according to the rules of engagement.”

A few days ago, the Jordanian government started closing all illegal crossing points between the province of Daraa in Syria and al-Ramtha in north Jordan for “security” reasons. The crossings between Swaida in Syria and al-Mafraq in east Jordan have stayed open because hundreds of Syrian refugees pass through these crossings every day.

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Found in: terrorism, syrian crisis, salafists, jordan, jihadists, crime, border crossing
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