We write in connection with the prolonged detention without trial of ‘Isam Muhammad Tahir al-‘Utaibi al-Barqawi (better known as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi). The circumstances of his arrest and detention appear to be arbitrary, and as such, his continued detention is unlawful. We ask you to instruct prosecutors to drop all charges against him and to order his release without delay.

New York, December 4, 2007

H.E. Nader Dahabi
Prime Minister
Amman
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Your Excellency,

We write in connection with the prolonged detention without trial of ‘Isam Muhammad Tahir al-‘Utaibi al-Barqawi (better known as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi). The circumstances of his arrest and detention appear to be arbitrary, and as such, his continued detention is unlawful. We ask you to instruct prosecutors to drop all charges against him and to order his release without delay.

As detailed below, al-Utaibi has been almost continuously in the custody of Jordanian security services without trial since December 2004. While the government has variously claimed that they have charged him with “contacting terrorist groups,” “conspiracy to commit terrorist acts,” and “instigation of violence,” they have yet to prosecute a case against him. Meanwhile, he continues to languish in confinement, with no meaningful access to counsel.

Human Rights Watch met with al-‘Utaibi during multiple visits to the Detention and Interrogation Center at the General Intelligence Department (GID) in August 2007. We have also spoken with his lawyers. We have discussed his case with officers of the GID on several occasions since September 2006. We have also spoken about the relevant legal procedures with military prosecutors at the GID.

There is no evidence that the government is earnestly pursuing a prosecution against al-‘Utaibi. Moreover, the reasons given for his arrest in the first place appear to be spurious, based exclusively on official displeasure with comments al-‘Utaibi made during an al-Jazeera interview. The courts’ and the government’s obstruction of al-‘Utaibi’s ability to challenge the lawfulness of his detention give weight to the inference that the authorities are holding him not for committing a crime, but because of his political and religious convictions.

Al-‘Utaibi has protested his prolonged detention without trial with a prolonged hunger strike during the first weeks of Ramadhan 2007. This followed promises the GID interrogators reportedly made to him around the time of Human Rights Watch’s visits in August 2007 that they would likely release him. These promises went unfulfilled.

In August 2007, the GID also summoned Muhammad ‘Isam al-‘Utaibi, his son, for interrogation about his contact with international human rights organizations on behalf of his detained father. Such conduct is a blatant violation of Muhammad al-‘Utaibi’s right to communicate with international human rights organizations, as set out in Articles 5(c) and 6(b) of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Al-‘Utaibi’s case is currently under review by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Jordan’s official reply to the committee’s initial enquiry provided no legal justification for al-‘Utaibi’s detention, merely stating that he is a dangerous man.

Allegations of unspecified danger are not sufficient grounds to indefinitely detain a person, especially where no court has ruled on whether a crime has, in fact, been committed. ‘Isam al-‘Utaibi should not be detained, unless he has committed a crime and is to be promptly and fairly prosecuted. We ask you to instruct prosecutors to drop all charges against him and to order his release al-‘Utaibi without delay.

Sincerely,

/s/

Christoph Wilcke
Middle East and North Africa Division
Human Rights Watch

/s/

Joanne Mariner
Terrorism and Counter-terrorism Program
Human Rights Watch

Enclosure: Arbitrary Arrest and Detention of ‘Isam al-‘Utaibi