Jordan arrests leaders of teachers union in opposition crackdown

AMMAN: Jordan’s deputy attorney-general has moved to stop the work of the elected teachers’ union, closed its offices, arrested its leadership team and asked the education minister to create a temporary committee in its place.

Jordan’s official news agency Petra quoted Hassan Abdallat as saying that the teachers’ union offices would not be allowed to operate for two years.

Abdallat also said he had ordered the Media Commission to issue a gag order to prevent news of the case being published.

The deputy attorney-general said that union leaders would be questioned over alleged crimes — including financial misconduct — that were being investigated by the anti-corruption commission, and a number of cases of incitement by the deputy head of the union via social media videos.

The teacher’s union leadership has been protesting the unilateral cancelation by the government of an agreed-to pay rise that came after a long struggle.

The government said that the suspension of salary raises was temporary due to COVID-19. Education Minister Tayseer Nuaimi told Petra news that pay rises suspended for civilian and military employees would be restored on Jan. 1, 2021.

Huda Etoom, a representative of the Jordanian parliament from the Islamic Islah block and a member of the teacher’s union, told Arab News that the attack was political. “This is a political case, not a legal one. The government doesn’t tolerate anyone who opposes them. If the government is unhappy with the Islamic movement they should go directly after the Islamic Action Front and the Islamic movement itself, not
after teachers and their union.”

Hala Ahed, a prominent Jordanian human rights lawyer who specializes in issues concerning unions and freedom of expression, told Arab News that the government could not simply stop the teacher’s union from working. “The only parties that can stop the union are its own members or a final judicial decision. The attorney-general has no constitutional right to do that,” she said.

Ahed also said that the education minister appointing himself the temporary head of the union was illegal. “If the courts decide to dissolve the current elected leadership then a temporary committee must be formed from its own members.”

Ahmad Awad, director of the Phenix Center for Economics and Informatics, told Arab News that the decision against the union had no legal backing. “There is a gap between what the constitution and existing laws guarantee and this last decision,” he said.

Nedal Mansour, director of the Center for the Defense of the Freedom of Journalists, told Arab News that calls to stop publication of news about the case were a restriction on freedom of expression. “Such decisions must be restricted to ban the minutes of interrogations and widening the gag order or discussion about it is a violation of freedom of expression.”

Teachers throughout Jordan, including in the capital Amman, held impromptu demonstrations on Saturday protesting government decisions against their union. The teacher’s union was accredited in
Jordan in 2011 after many years of struggle by public service teachers.

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