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Jordan: Emirati-Turkish citizen faces 'unconstitutional' deportation

Khalaf Abdul Rahman al-Romaithi at risk of arbitrary detention if returned to the UAE, warns Human Rights Watch
Khalaf Abdul Rahman al-Romaithi was arrested by Jordanian authorities on 7 May 2023 (Social Media)

Jordanian authorities have detained a dual Emirati-Turkish citizen who could now face extradition to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he has been sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday named the detainee as Khalaf Abdul Rahman al-Romaithi, 58, and condemned the development as "very concerning". HRW said he could face "arbitrary detention" in the UAE.

Romaithi was detained at Amman's Queen Alia International Airport on 7 May 2023, upon his arrival from Turkey.  He was later released on bail but was detained again on 8 May. Romaithi's lawyers lost track of their client's whereabouts on 9 May, HRW said.

In July 2013, at the height of the Arab Spring, the UAE's Federal Supreme Court sentenced Romaithi following what HRW called "grossly unfair" mass trials of 94 government critics resulting in 69 convictions.

Since his conviction, Romaithi has been sheltering in exile in Turkey.

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HRW said that Romaithi was sentenced to prison for exercising his rights of "free expression, association, and assembly".

Jordan's constitution prohibits extradition of "political refugees" based on "their political beliefs or for their defence of liberty".

The deputy director of HRW in the Middle East and North Africa, Michael Page, said that there are "unconfirmed reports that Jordan has already deported him to the UAE".

Emirati authorities "have been violating the rights of Romaithi" and his co-defendants for over a decade, said Joey Shea, UAE researcher at HRW.

"Jordan risks complicity in these abuses if it sends him back to near-certain persecution," said Shea, adding that Jordanian authorities should reveal the Romaithi's whereabouts.

'They took me'

On 7 May, Romaithi attempted to enter Jordan on his Turkish passport. Jordanian authorities, however, stopped him, subjecting him to biometric checks at the airport which revealed that Jordanian police had issued a warrant for his arrest based on a request from the UAE.

Romaithi's lawyers told HRW that after being released on bail he was picked up by a plain-clothes police officer in Amman the next day and all of his belongings were taken from his hotel.

Romaithi sent a text message to his lawyer, writing "they took me", before losing all contact.

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On 10 May, Romaithi's lawyers looked through the Jordanian justice ministry's electronic system and discovered an order to release him from jail. Since the lawyers and family have not been able to locate him, HRW has expressed concerns that he might have been swiftly extradited to the UAE.

HRW said that it had received unconfirmed reports that Romaithi was deported to the UAE on the morning of 12 May, but it was not able to independently confirm this.

Jordanian authorities have not provided any official confirmation to Romaithi's lawyer of his whereabouts.

Romaithi's lawyer speculated that if he has been extradited authorities may have circumvented the country's normal extradition process.

"This would be a catastrophe for the country, and the authorities who did this would have violated the constitution of Jordan," Romaithi's lawyer told HRW.

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