(Feb. 15) Because the Biden administration has been virtually AWOL in public advocacy for a hunger-striking American unjustly imprisoned in Jordan, Republican House leaders should take his banner.

As noted here numerous times, Bassem Awadallah is a Jordanian American with dual citizenship who was imprisoned in April 2021 on charges of sedition against King Abdullah II. Whether or not the charges are illegitimate, which is how they appear from a distance, the indisputable reality is that Awadallah was not allowed to present evidence or witnesses in his own defense. He also claims to have been viciously tortured in Jordanian custody, a practice the State Department in 2020 said does indeed occur in Jordanian detention centers. He has been held in solitary confinement and has not been able to see his family, members of which, he alleges, were threatened as part of an effort to coerce a confession from him.

The State Department repeatedly has said that it will “continue to monitor [Awadallah’s] situation.” Beyond that, though, it has done next to nothing to make public calls for better treatment for the prisoner or for a new trial conducted with the basics of due process. Frankly, what really should happen is that President Joe Biden should make a public demand for Awadallah’s release into the U.S., with him subject to a permanent ban from traveling to Jordan. Free the man and end the saga while mitigating any putative (or flat-out imaginary) threat he poses to the Jordanian kingdom.

Yet, because Biden is notoriously reluctant to stand up for U.S. citizens unjustly targeted by foreign nations, the new Republican majority in the House ought to fill the gap. This is especially so now that the prisoner has begun, and then renewed, a hunger strike to protest his inhumane treatment. An American citizen’s life is at risk in a foreign land after being imprisoned without the chance to defend himself: Surely this is grounds for Congress to protest…. [The full column is here.]


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