"Jordan's response to demonstrations looks more and more repressive," said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch, in a statement from Beirut. "Its security forces violently break up peaceful protests and then continue to beat and insult detainees in custody."
The rights organization said a few hundred people gathered Saturday in front of the prime minister's office in Amman. They were protesting the detention of seven activists arrested in March. Witnesses told the rights group they were warned by police not to cross "red lines."
One of those arrested was reportedly beaten by police while in a communal holding cell. Others were assaulted by security forces that Human Rights Watch said were unprovoked.
Of those detained, 13 were charged for unlawfully gathering and for insulting Jordanian King Abdullah II.
"Peacefully opposing one's system of government or calling for its replacement is protected speech," said Wilcke. "It is high time Jordan reformed its penal code and abolished all articles criminalizing peaceful speech and assembly."
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