A court in Jordan on Thursday sentenced five leaders of the national teachers’ syndicate to a year in prison over recent protests demanding a salary increase, a lawyer for the teachers said.
Bassam Fraihat said the court also ordered that the syndicate be dissolved. He said the five, who face an array of charges, including incitement to hatred and unlawful gatherings, are appealing the verdict and were released on bail
The five were among 13 members of the Teachers Association council who were arrested in July after threatening to stage new protests over a long-running salary dispute. The arrests set off protests in the capital, Amman, in which anti-riot police clashed with protesters and beat several people with clubs, including an Associated Press reporter. Dozens of protesters were arrested.
The Jordanian government had agreed to increase teachers’ salaries by 50% after a month-long strike in September 2019. But after restrictions related to the coronavirus outbreak hit the economy, the government postponed the salary hikes, drawing scorn from the teachers. They accused the government of failing to honour the agreement.
Police raided the teachers syndicate headquarters in Amman and 11 of its branches across the country, shuttered them, and arrested all 13 syndicate board members on July 25, 2020, Human Rights Watch said today. Attorney General Hassan Abdallat issued the order to close the independent, elected labour union representing teachers across Jordan for a period of two years after high-profile disputes between the Jordanian government and the Teachers Syndicate.
Shortly after the shutdown, the attorney general ordered a comprehensive gag order on all reporting about the situation, including on social media or sharing social media comments.
“Shuttering one of the Jordan’s few independent labour unions following a protracted dispute with the government and on dubious legal grounds raises serious concerns about the government’s respect for the rule of law,” said Michael Page deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The lack of transparency and the ban on discussing this incident on social media only reinforces the conclusion that the authorities are violating citizens’ rights.”
The attorney General said that the order is based on three pending criminal complaints before the public prosecutor’s office, but there appears to be no basis in Jordanian law for him to issue the closure order. The 2011 Jordan Teachers Syndicate Law states that the group’s board can only be dissolved by a vote of two-thirds of the members of its central committee or by judicial order. Under Jordanian law, neither the Attorney General nor another public prosecutor is empowered to make judicial orders.