|Date: Aug 29, 2020|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Jordan should free teachers held after protests: HRW|
|Agence France Presse|
Amman: Jordan should release all teachers arrested in a crackdown on their trade union, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Thursday, accusing Amman of using coronavirus as a pretext to stifle peaceful dissent.
Authorities closed the Teachers' Syndicate and arrested its leaders on July 25, after it led a campaign for higher pay in the deeply indebted kingdom whose economy is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
Jordan announced Sunday the release of the teachers union's 13 elected council members, who were arrested a month ago for alleged graft.
"Other union leaders and demonstrators remain in detention," HRW said in a statement.
"The authorities should also release anyone held arbitrarily in administrative detention," it added.
The New York-based rights watchdog listed several examples of detainees it had documented, both in the capital Ammam and in surrounding towns including Irbid and Ajloun.
The government has banned public gatherings of more than 20 people and while ministers say the intention is to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, HRW said the ban was being used to crush criticism.
"The Jordanian government, despite promises to the contrary, is exploiting the state of emergency to crack down on public outrage over the arbitrary government closure of the Teachers' Syndicate," said HRW's Michael Page.
"Jordan should not use the pandemic as a pretext to repress expressions of public concern."
Ammam should lift its ban on public protests and protect the right to free assembly, HRW said.
"This crackdown could actually spark broader outrage against authorities' abusive decisions," Page added.
The teachers' union remains closed, while the authorities have banned media coverage of the judicial investigations into the union.
HRW condemned the gag order last week, saying: "Jordan's shrinking space for journalists to operate reflects the country's slide into repression."