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Amman-- Two Jordanians who criticized the government's security ties with the United States have been charged with sedition and slandering the army, judicial officials said on Saturday.
A military court charged Muwaffaq Mahadin and Sufyan al-Tell last Thursday after a legal complaint by a group of army veterans, angered by comments the men, a writer and a political activist, had made on television.
They spoke on air two weeks after a Jordanian double agent, blew himself up at a US base in Afghanistan on 30 December, killing a relative of King Abdullah and seven CIA officers, in the second most deadly attack in the agency's history.
The operation exposed Amman's role at the center of a complex espionage operation and embarrassed the authorities.
Mahadin told Al Jazeera television that Jordan "had unfortunately turned to capitalizing on the war on terror," while Tell attacked the security role of the army.
The prosecutor ordered their arrest for 15 days pending an investigation, the judicial officials said.
They face a total of five charges under colonial era defamation and sedition laws that include: "slandering the army, incitement to topple the government, along with hurting ties with a foreign country," a judicial source said.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of fifteen years, lawyers said.
Defense lawyer Riyad Nawayseh said the case was politically motivated and designed as a warning against government dissent.
"This is not a criminal case ... it's political and is meant to send a message to anyone who tries to dispute the official version of events," Nawayseh told Reuters.
The two were among 65 prominent Islamist, leftist and nationalist figures who signed a petition issued on 12 January entitled "This is not our War," denouncing what they termed a "humiliating role in fighting proxy wars for the US empire in Afghanistan and Iraq."
Few Jordanians dare to openly debate the traditionally close ties between Jordan's spy agency and the CIA that has made the kingdom a key ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda.
Jordan has tough laws that forbid slandering the royal family or writing articles that disparage he armed forces and security services.
The press and publications law also bans articles that contain contempt of religion, or are deemed to damage national unity or offend public morals.