US citizen detained in Jordan launches hunger strike | CNN Politics



A US citizen detained in Jordan is calling on the US government to demand his return to the United States and launching a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment.

Bassem Awadallah, a dual US-Jordanian citizen, was arrested in April 2021 and sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of incitement against the state and sowing sedition in connection to an effort Jordanian authorities allege was led by Prince Hamzah bin Al Hussein to “destabilize” the kingdom. Representatives for Awadallah called the charges “fabricated,” and Hamzah has denied the allegations.

Awadallah, a former Jordan finance minister, is launching a hunger strike to call attention to his “unjust imprisonment” and urging both Biden administration officials and Republican lawmakers in Congress to advocate his release, his US lawyer Michael Sullivan said in a statement released by representatives for Awadallah.

“The U.S. Government should make it clear to King Abdullah and his government that continued support depends on Jordan’s commitment to human rights especially when it concerns the rights of U.S. citizens,” Sullivan said.

“It is our hope that the new Republican leadership of the House of Representatives will seek answers from the Biden Administration on what steps are being taken to secure Bassem’s release,” he added.

Awadallah’s hunger strike comes weeks after Siamak Namazi, an American wrongfully detained in Iran, went on a seven-day hunger strike in an attempt to urge President Joe Biden to push for his release. Namazi has been detained in Iran since 2015. During his hunger strike, a US National Security Council spokesperson said the administration remained “committed to securing the freedom of Siamak Namazi and we are working tirelessly to bring him home along with all US citizens who are wrongfully detained in Iran, including Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz.”

Awadallah is also a former adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. CNN has previously reported that shortly after his arrest, Saudi Arabia sent a delegation to Jordan headed by Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. Both the Saudi and Jordanian governments have denied that the meeting was related to Awadallah’s arrest.

The statement from Awadallah’s representatives said he has been subjected to “physical, psychological and emotional torture” while detained in Jordan and has spent his entire 22-month detention in solitary confinement. A State Department report from 2020 said international and local organizations have reported incidents of torture in detention centers in Jordan.

CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment.

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