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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Jordan jails outspoken dissident
Jordanian parliament in Amman
Toujan Faisal was a member of parliament 1993-97
A prominent critic of the Jordanian authorities has been sentenced to 18 months in jail after being convicted of slandering the government.

Toujan Faisal - the first woman to be elected to parliament - was found guilty of publishing "lies that hurt the state's integrity and honour" after she accused the government of corruption.

She has exceeded the boundaries of acceptable criticism

Colonel Tayel al-Raqad, chief judge
The 53-year-old former MP was arrested in March, after an open letter she sent to King Abdullah outlining the allegations appeared on a foreign website.

Faisal, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, is the most prominent dissident to be sent to prison since King Abdullah came to the throne in 1999.

Correspondents say that in recent years, she has become a leading advocate of free speech, pushed for an end to political detentions and constantly attacked violations of human rights and freedoms.

Defiant critic

Before passing sentence, the chief judge at the three-man state security tribunal Colonel Tayel al-Raqad said Toujan Faisal's pronouncements in the print media, on the internet and at public venues, had harmed Jordan's image abroad.
Toujan Faisal
Toujan Faisal staged a hunger strike in protest at her arrest

She had "exceeded the boundaries of acceptable criticism...her pronouncements sowed internal strife," he was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

The verdict, which court officials say cannot be appealed, prompted an angry outburst from Toujan Faisal, who called it unfair.

"Those who harmed the state's integrity are the ones who put me in prison because of my services to my people," she was quoted as saying.

'Illegal and unconstitutional'

Ms Faisal had presented her own defence in court after her lawyers withdrew from the case saying the judges' rulings had made it impossible for them to work.

However, speaking after the verdict, one of her team said he would try to find an avenue for appeal, despite the legal complications.

"The verdict is illegal, wrong and unconstitutional," Zayed al-Radaydeh was quoted as saying.

Ms Faisal, who was known for fiercely criticising the government and Muslim militants during her term as a member of parliament, failed to gain re-election in 1997.

See also:

14 May 02 | Middle East
Former Jordanian MP on trial
14 Jan 02 | Middle East
Jordanian Government resigns
18 Jun 00 | Middle East
Jordan's king appoints new PM
02 Nov 01 | Middle East
Profile: King Abdullah of Jordan
12 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Jordan
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