Human Rights Watch urged Jordan on Wednesday to charge or release five university students detained earlier this month for allegedly desecrating the Koran and engaging in “devil worship.”
The students, from Al al-Bayt University in northeastern Jordan, deny the accusations and have neither been charged nor taken before a judge. They were assaulted by a crowd of other students before their arrest on March 12, the rights watchdog said on its website.
“Jordanian authorities should release the five students and take steps to protect them from further attack,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at HRW.
“The authorities should hold to account anyone who joined in this witch hunt and committed acts of violence. They should not be allowed to walk free while their victims are locked up.”
Other students alleged the five ripped and burned a manuscript of the Muslim holy book and threw it in the toilet while performing a “religious ritual.”
HRW quoted their relatives as saying no evidence of criminal behaviour has been presented to the detained students.
“Authorities should also investigate reported remarks, including by a well-known Salafist sheikh, advocating the students’ deaths and prosecute anyone whose language amounted to direct incitement to murder,” it said.
Salafists are an ultra-conservative current of Sunni Islam.
These remarks “have led to other calls for the students to be killed in messages posted on Facebook… prompting fears for their safety and doubts about whether they will be able to complete their university studies in Jordan.”
Authorities were not immediately available for comment.