Jordan: Anti-corruption journalist jailed

A journalist in Jordan was sentenced to 14 days' imprisonment on Wednesday after reporting that a billionaire businessman jailed for corruption had been allowed to leave the country.

Alaa Fazzaa, editor of a news website,, was accused of "undermining the monarchy and the constitution".

The Jordan Times says that under Jordan's press law, journalism cases are supposed to be referred to the Amman Court of First Instance but but Azzaa's "offence" was deemed to involve national security and he was therefore sent to the State Security Court.

Azaa's arrest is the latest repercussion from a multi-million-dollarbribery scandal involving expansion plans for Jordan's only oil refinery. 

Last July, a former finance minister, a former director of the refinery company, the prime minister's economic adviser and Khaled Shaheen (or Shahin), head of the Shaheen Business and Investment Group (SBIG) were all sentenced to three years in jailon corruption charges.

The sentences appeared relatively light considering the seriousness of the case, and the men were released on bail pending an appeal.

The Jordanian authorities also made efforts to minimise media coverage of the case and at one point decreed that local media must not report or comment on the refinery affair without prior approval. 

In February, Shahin was quietly allowed to leave the country, supposedly for medical treatment which could not be obtained in Jordan. This only came to light when he was spotted dining out at a restaurant in London.

Last Thursday, Jordan's health minister and justice minister both resigned after accepting "moral responsibility" for allowing Shahin to flee.

Yesterday, following protests from Jordanian journalists over Fazzaa's imprisonment, the royal palace announced that King Abdullah had ordered his release – though it is not clear whether the case has been dropped.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 2 June 2011.