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Jordan arrest top Brotherhood leader for calling UAE a 'sponsor of terrorism'

Zaki Bani Arshid was detained late on Thursday after publishing an article criticising the UAE for labelling the Muslim Brotherhood a terror group
Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed with his second wife Jordanian Princess Haya bint al-Hussein (AFP)

Jordanian authorities arrested the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Zaki Bani Arshid on Thursday for criticising the UAE’s declaration that they consider the group a terrorist organisation.

“The security agencies arrested Bani Arshid due to his remarks against the UAE over its release of a list of designated terror groups, which included the Brotherhood,” a security source told Anadolu Agency (AA) on condition of anonymity.

Arshid was detained after a meeting late on Thursday at the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters in Amman. It is the first time a prominent opposition figure has been arrested in Jordan for years.

The security source said his arrest was made to “preserve Jordan’s interests and relations with a brotherly nation [the UAE] that hosts a considerable number of Jordanians.”

The UAE released a list of 83 organisations on 15 November they consider terror groups, which included the Muslim Brotherhood, but also charities such as the UK-based Islamic Relief and Washington-based advocacy group the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

The UK-based organisations have announced they are considering a legal challenge against the designation and the UAE has said those listed can appeal the decision if the organisation proves “their approach has changed”.

Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood leader Arshid criticised the UAE terror listing in a column published on a number of websites and spread on social media. He said the UAE’s rulers were “the first sponsor of terrorism and had no legitimacy”.

“The leadership of the UAE is playing the role of American policeman in the area and performs the dirtiest roles to help the Zionist project and is behind all destructive acts against the Muslim and Arab nations’ aspirations,” Arshid wrote.

The UAE has played a prominent role in the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition, carrying out bombing raids against the group in Syria and Iraq.

The Brotherhood’s Islamic Action Front Party – who earlier criticised the UAE terror list as being against “both logic and wisdom” – described Arshid’s arrest as “an insult to the nation and a bid to stifle voices.”

“The Brotherhood operates in Jordan in line with law and constitution and has contributed to the country’s security and stability for over 70 years,” party spokesperson Murad Adayleh told AA.

Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood is the largest political opposition party in the country, which is reigned over by King Abdullah II, and has called for political reforms but stopped short of demanding an end to monarchical rule.

Although the group has been allowed to operate legally for decades, several members were arrested after criticising the Jordanian government for not responding strongly enough to Israel’s recent 51-day military assault on the Gaza Strip.

The arrest of Brotherhood leader Arshid may in part be related to Jordan’s close ties with the UAE and other oil-rich Gulf monarchies. In December 2011, a $5 bn fund was set up by Gulf States to prop up Jordan’s ailing economy and avoid unrest in a country that shares a border with regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia.

There are royal connections too, between Jordan and the UAE, with Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum married to Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, daughter of the late Jordanian King Hussein and half-sister of Abdullah II.

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