AMMAN, Jordan, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A leader in Jordan's branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was sentenced to 18 months in prison over criticism leveled at the United Arab Emirates.
Jordan accused Zaki Bani Rushaid, deputy head of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, of damaging relations with a foreign country after he spoke negatively about the UAE's suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood. In a Nov. 17 Facebook post he accused the Sunni-led Emirates of playing the "American cop in the region," supporting coups and being "a cancer in the body of the Arab world."
The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood released a statement Sunday calling the sentence "politically motivated," and a "blow to freedom of speech." The group characterized the Amman government's actions as a "deliberate escalation by the state against the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan."
Branches of the Muslim Brotherhood have been banned in Saudi Arabia as well as Egypt, where the group ascended to the presidency in 2012 before President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown in protests and a military coup the following year.
Jordan and the UAE are close allies. The UAE is Jordan's main financial backer and partner in military efforts against the Islamic State. Both are members of Operation Inherent Resolve, a U.S.-led international bombing campaign against IS forces in Syria and Iraq.
After a Jordanian F-16 pilot was downed in Syria and captured by IS fighters, Jordan and the UAE halted airstrikes against the group but renewed after First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh was burned alive by the militants. The UAE sent a squadron of F-16 fighter jets to Jordan earlier this month in what state news agency WAM reported was an affirmation of "the U.A.E.'s unwavering and constant solidarity with Jordan and its leading role and immense sacrifices for the security and stability of the region as embodied by martyr and hero Moaz al-Kasasbeh."
At the Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday, UAE Air Force representative Lt. Col. Hassan Ali Alanazi said he saw his country as one of the leading powers in the Middle East but required more support and weaponry from Western allies.