Ahmad Oweidi al-Abbadi A critic of Jordan’s royal family was sentenced to two years in jail on Tuesday for sending e-mails abroad that the court ruled to be carrying "false news" and harmful to the dignity of the state. The verdict against after a two-month trial, comes at a time that human rights groups are voicing concern about what they call an official clampdown on the media. Judicial sources said Abbadi, a right wing former deputy, was found guilty on three charges of undermining state dignity, publishing "false news" on e-mails sent to foreign figures and illegally distributing leaflets. Abbadi had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Before his arrest, Abbadi had stepped up criticism of Jordan’s royal family and accused top officials of corruption on a Web site he ran. Supporters said he had sent an e-mail to U.S. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid decrying what he called a steep rise in official corruption. Source: [MSNBC]

Although I disagree with the ideologies disseminated by Jordanian National Movement leader Ahmad Oweidi al-Abbadi, I was dismayed to see that he received a two-year sentence for carrying "false news." Here is what Human Rights Watch has said about Abbadi’s case:

"The only reason al-Abbadi languishes in jail waiting for his court verdict is that he’s a government opponent exercising his right to free speech," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division.

This is yet another step in Jordan’s moves against free expression, right alongside Jordan’s announcement last month that it would be monitoring online sites. Not to mention that all this is happening while the fate of Jordan’s first independent TV station is hanging in the balance. The sad reality nowadays is that Jordan is taking step after step backwards when it comes to the freedom of the press. I’m of the opinion that for democracy to prevail in any place, the press must be free. Sadly, this is not the case in my home country.

It is also worth nothing, that Abbadi’s accusations of official corruption in the Kingdom came shortly before Jordan was named as a country facing a disturbing increase in corruption according to the Transparency International scale.