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Saturday, June 17, 2006 

With all eyes on Syria - arrests of dissidents in Jordan go unnoticed

Four members of the Jordanian Parliament have been arrested for incitement to terrorism. Their crime: to console members of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi's family.

“Expressing condolences to the family of a dead man, however murderous he might be, is not a crime,” said Sarah Leah Whitson from Human Rights Watch.

It comes at a time when, according to independent monitors, the police and mukhabaraat (secret police) have been given freedom to target whoever they want.

The judges are relying on the dubious 'Article 150' which prohibits activities "intended to, or results in, stirring up sectarian or racial tension or strife among different elements of the nation". Sound familiar? It mirrors part of Syria's emergency law prohibiting activities which harm the unity of the Syrian nation.

Last week Al-Jazeera's Amman bureau chief was arrested - he has been targeted before, when he showed footage of clashes between police and Islamists in the southern city of Ma'an.

Just days ago Jihad Al-Mumani the editor of the Al-Shihan magazine was jailed. Before that Hashim Al-Khalidi - the editor of the weekly Al-Mihwar - was jailed.

In January another journalist, Jamil Abu Bakr, was charged with “belittling the dignity of the state”.

Last month Fahd al-Rimawi, the editor of the weekly Al-Majd was arrested for raising questions about Jordan's discovery of a 'Hamas arms stash'.

Thousands more faceless political prisoners languish in Jordanian jails.

But it's only Syria's arrests of opposition activists come in for international condemnation.

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