[The following report was submitted to Jadaliyya by a confirmed source close to the case of Rula Amin, a reporter recently detained by Jordanian authorities.]
[Update: There are confirmed reports that Rula Amin has been released from prinson today, 17 March 2015. The legal details of her release have not yet been confirmed.]
On Monday 16 March 2015, Jordanian police arrested Rula Amin, a veteran international journalist, in Amman, Jordan. Rula had refused to give up physical custody of her five-year-old daughter, Dina, to her ex-husband. However, the exact legal pretext for Rula’s arrest is still unclear.
The origins of the situation lay in a visitation agreement established between Rula and her ex-husband while meeting in Ramallah. The latter broke that agreement a little over a year ago when he effectively kidnapped Dina, their then-four-year-old daughter, by taking her to Amman after their meeting in Ramallah and preventing Rula from seeing or speaking to her daughter.
About six months ago, Rula moved to Amman seeking to regain custody of her daughter. There, she filed a case with the sharia court system in Jordan. This is the court that has jurisdiction over matters of personal status (including marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance) in the kingdom.
The Wadi al-Seir Sharia Court eventually ruled in favor of Rula through an expedited decision, granting her custody of her daughter. While the ex-husband originally appealed the decision to the appellate sharia court, said court rejected his appeal arguing that the ruling is not one that can be appealed. The ex-husband then filed a grievance with the judge of the first court to ask to revoke/overturn the ruling, which the judge denied. It was then that the ex-husband returned to the appellate sharia court, appealing the previous judge’s denial of his grievance motion. It was at this point that the judge of the appellate court accepted the grievance (after initial denying an appeal) and revoked the original ruling granting Rula custody of her daughter.
Both Rula’s lawyer and a number of observers claim this revocation is unprecedented, as an expedited custody decision is not subject to appeal—precisely the reason the appellate court first rejected Rula’s ex-husband’s appeal. In his most recent ruling, the appellate judge drew precedence from Egyptian rather than Jordanian law in order to justify the overturning of the initial ruling granting Rula custody. This, some observers claim, has not been done before in a Jordanian court ruling. It would thus appear that extra-judicial influence was at play.
This past Sunday, Rula was informed that she had seven days to surrender custody of her daughter to her ex-husband. However, on Monday (the following day), Jordanian authorities arrested Rula and are currently detaining her in a women’s prison. As of writing, no specific charges have been publicized, nor have the authorities provided any basis for their detention of Rula. Some Jordanian websites are however publishing unconfirmed reports that she was arrested on the charge of contempt of court.
A campaign is developing to publicize Rula’s situation, call for her for release, and ensure that the legal proceedings concerning her daughter comport with precedence and procedure. It is worth recalling that both the revocation of the official ruling and the basis of that revocation are unprecedented. Equally importantly, there is no basis for the arrest of Rula Amin given that she was allotted seven days to hand over custody of her daughter, yet arrested on the second day. To help highlight this issue, organizers are asking that social media users deploy the hashtag #rulaamin.