31 January 2006

Guilty till proven innocent.

As of the time of writing (3.50 AM, Tuesday morning, January 31st 2006), I am now free on bail, awaiting the continuation of my case/further investigation to be carried out in approximately 28 hours. Why? Well, it has to do with something I never even said.

I was out with some friends tonight, and at about 1 am, the club's DJ stated that they would be closing early. Fair enough....I spoke to some other friends, and they decided that we could go to someone's house to hang out. We went down, collected our coats, and I had just opened the door to my car and gotten in, when two individuals with a serious attitude problem called me "aboo bita3" (I have no clue what that even means, so I can't translate it), and ordered me to come with them. I don't think they even identified themselves as police (plain clothes), but it was obvious by the sound of their walkie-talkies.

They escorted me to a parked car, told me to get in, made a comment about "Sha3ib ma biji illa bil kondara" (a people that can only be dealt with with contempt), and chucked me in with the driver. he was pleasant enough, asked me who I was, what I did, and what had happened. I told him that they'd accused me of saying things I hadn't heard, much less said, and he seemed to take it at face value. My friends, meanwhile, were busy trying to figure out what was going on, unsuccessfully. Another friend, who was English, was oblivious about the goings on, and tapped the glass asking if I was meeting up with them later.

The first two individuals, one who I would later learn was called Lieutenant Adnan, and another called Hasan, joined me in the car, and that's when the compost hit the fan. I was now being accused of insulting the policemen, and (get this) insulting the Prophet Mohammad. They then whisked me off to the Zahran police station.

Now, I'm not a religious person. By any means. I was born Christian, but haven't practiced since before I was a teenager. But I have never made any comments about Islam or the Prophet Mohammad, and I certainly would not have been stupid enough to do so in public, with two suspicious looking men with walkie talkies looking on. Ask anyone who knows me. Ask my Muslim friends. In fact, ask my muslim friend who was walking next to me as I came out of the club. Ask my colleagues at work...at all five of my jobs.

Anyway, back to the thrilling ride to the police station: The ever-cheerful Lieutenant Adnan kept accsuing me of saying things I could barely understand, and then began making blanket threats. "One of the people at the club, when I told him what you'd said, told me that he'd take care of you himself....If I'd let them have you, they'd butcher you! ...But enough...the Law will take its course, but if it doesn't, there are other ways."

The last sentence got me a little worried. I thought I was about to get beaten up or worse, but thankfully, all that was to be had was more gestapo-style talk. More intimidation. "Stand up straight! Don't lean! Put your foot down!"

What was worse was the fact they kept telling me to "confess" what I'd done. The promises of letting me off if I'd just apologise. "Apologise for what? I didn't say anything!" I kept retorting. They just kept calling me a liar, kept trying to scare me. No less than four different cops walked in and out of that room during the course of the "investigation", which was more akin to something you'd see in film noire.

"And what is the nature of your relationship with the girl who you walked out of the club with? Is it friendship? Love? Sexual?"
"She's my friend."
I wondered why he didn't bother to ask about the three other friends with me, or the other people who had been coming out the club at the same time. I was also not severly inclined to tell him that his question was of a personal and private nature and that he should shove it. I chose to remain silent and diplomatic, instead.

They made attempts to provoke me into anger. Comments about how youth these days were liars, good for nothing. I have no idea how many times they accused me of lying, then sarcastically said "Well, then, WE must be lying".

My heart was racing. I didn't know if the Lieutenant would make good on his blanket threats. Luckily, I have a very good poker face, and I managed to stay calm and collected, sharp of mind, and I made sure I read the statement they wrote down to be sure they didn't sneak anything in. I maintained that I was willing to undergo medical testing to prove I was sobre, and not under the influence of anything.

A friend of mine eventaully arranged bail, but not before another cop had come in, been told the story, asked me if I had said what I'd said, and upon hearing my selfsame answer, asked me why I wouldn't stop lying. The feeling of "guilty until proven innocent" was more than palpable...I was practically choking on it.
So there you have it. In less than 28 hours, I have to report back to the police station to see what happens. I'm very stressed out, but despite everything, I will not cop a plea. I have done nothing wrong, I am completely innocent of these claims (I don't even know if they're charges yet), and I did not insult anyone, neither the police, nor ANYONE's faith or ANY religion.
I'm told this sort of charge is punishable by jailing. I don't know how true it is, but I am quite afraid that this might happen. I am determined not to admit doing something I did not do for the sake of my freedom, but I don't know how well my courage and principles will hold out if I truly do face a run in prison.
And there you have it. My run-in with the law in Jordan. Hopefully, I'll be able to update this in a few days to tell you what's happening, and say that it was all a big misunderstanding, and that I was being overly sensational. I hope.

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