Amman Court of Appeals acquitted CDFJ and its Executive President of the charges against them by the Public Prosecution and decided the revocation of the decision of the First Instance Criminal Court of Amman to imprison colleague Nidal Mansour for one year and a fine of 1000 dinars in addition to a fine of 200 dinars to CDFJ.
Amman Court of Appeals issued its decision on 28/10/2018 under the chairmanship of Judge Ahmad Al-Qatawneh and the membership of Judges Abdul Rahim Al-Maaytah and Ghazi Al-Maasafeh that CDFJ is not responsible for the two charges (crimes). The decision of Amman Court of Appeals is a final and a peremptory one.
Mr. Nidal Mansour, the Executive President of CDFJ, described the decision as fair, impartial and in compliance with the principles of the independence of the judiciary and in support for civil society organizations as well as the establishment of the rule of law and justice in Jordan. Also in appreciation of the efforts exerted by CDFJ during the past 20 years of its existence in defending journalists and media organizations, developing their professionalism, building their journalistic abilities and contributing to sustainable development.
On June 11, 2018, the First Instance Criminal Court of Amman convicted CDFJ and Nidal Mansour and sentenced him to one year in prison with the fine, without enough reasoning or causation as described by Amman Court of Appeals in its decision.
The Court of Appeals confirmed, in its historic decision, that the objectives CDFJ all serve the civil society and government institutions in the field of media and press, and raise awareness of the importance of opinion and other opinion to serve society.
In its 10-page decision, the Amman Court of Appeals stated that the First Instance Criminal Court of Amman was incorrect in its ruling. It was based neither on sound law principles nor on an analysis of the evidence presented in the case. It was limited in its reasoning and causing contrary to article 237 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The Public Prosecution has accused CDFJ and its Executive President of committing the following charges:
- Preparing the company’s budget, its accounts, profits and losses in a manner that is not consistent with reality and the inclusion of incorrect information in the accounts’ financial auditor report, in order to conceal the true status of the company from the related persons and bodies, in violation of articles (287/a/4) of the Companies Law and (76) of the Penal Code.
- The company’s lack of adherence to the goals and objectives it was established for in violation of articles (273/b) of the Companies Law and (76) of the Penal Code.
In its decision, the Court of Appeal found that the First Instance Criminal Court of Amman erred in relying on the prosecution’s evidence without taking into account the defense evidence, and therefore misjudged the evidence, which led to an unwanted recapitulation of the facts which the Court believed was correct.
The decision noted that the First Instance Criminal Court of Amman had erred in the result it has reached with regard to its conclusion of the facts in the case, since the evidence provided and heard in the proceedings did not lead to the facts which the Court believed to have been substantiated and that its conclusion to these facts was unwanted, unacceptable and illogical.
The Amman Court of Appeals found that the First Instance Criminal Court of Amman also erred in its conclusion with regard to the legal application of the facts of the case, since the elements of the crimes assigned to the appellants were not available against them.
The Amman Court of Appeals indicated in its decision that the First Instance Criminal Court of Amman had erred when it assumed that the moral element (knowledge) was presumed in the act assigned to the appellants, and that the knowledge of the charge assigned to the appellants is not to be presumed but must be proved, according to Article 147 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Accordingly, on the basis of this article, it is the responsibility of the Public Prosecution to prove the availability of both physical and moral elements against the appellants.
The Amman Court of Appeals confirmed that the First Instance Criminal Court of Amman had erred in breaching article 135 of the Code of Criminal Procedure when, in passing its judgment, it relied on evidence that did not exist at all.
The Amman Court of Appeals concluded in its decision that “the First Instance Criminal Court of Amman had erred and avoided the right by not responding to the objections raised in the pleading of the appellants, contrary to the law, without indicating the causes and reasons that led to the conclusion of this judgment and the conviction of the appellants.”
The Amman Court of Appeals found that the Companies Control Committee had not taken into account the correct accounting principles when preparing its report on the budgets of CDFJ and relied on an uncorroborated and illegal comparison to show that there were financial differences.
The Amman Court of Appeals found that it had been proven to them that the acts committed by the appellants – CDFJ and its Executive President Nidal Mansour – did not constitute the charge of regulating a budget in a manner inconsistent with reality and to provide incorrect data, which would require that they will not be held responsible for the charge.
The Amman Court of Appeals noted its decision to assign the Public Prosecutor’s Office to CDFJ and its administration a violation of the goals, relying on the fact that on the 2013 budget prepared by the auditor it was written “governmental non-profit organization” which is completely contrary to the company’s reality – CDFJ – registered as a civil and non-governmental company.
The court said in its decision, “We find that this attribution is misplaced, contrary to what the legislator intended in article 273 / b of the Companies Law, because the mere mentioning of the words that the company is a governmental non-profit organization does not affect the purposes for which it was founded. Also, in the report of the committee it was mentioned that the company is not for profit because the partners have agreed not to distribute profits, as fixed in the contract of its establishment.
Amman Court of Appeals added to its decision: “As stated in the financial statements of the financial auditor for 2013 that the company is a governmental non-profit organization, it is a typographical error, as this sentence was not repeated in the company’s previous and subsequent budgets for 2013. This error has been corrected by the auditor, and he then addressed the Companies Control Department, noting that the budgets of government institutions are audited by the Audit Bureau and not by a special auditor.”
In its decision, Amman Court of Appeals affirmed that it finds that “the objectives of CDFJ in the Memorandum of Association are all in the service of civil society and public organizations in the field of media, press and awareness of the importance of opinion and other opinions to serve society.”
Amman Court of Appeals concluded its decision by saying: “And that’s why, and since the acts against the appellants have not been proven to constitute a charge of non-observance of the purpose, which would require that they will not be held responsible for this charge and that the First Instance Criminal Court of Amman has reached a disagreement with our finding, the grounds for appeal are set forth in the appealed decision in this regard, which should be annulled.”
In accordance with the provisions of Article 268 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Court of Appeal has decided “to accept the appeal, annul the decision and declare the appellants not to be responsible for the two charges and return the papers to their source”.
The case started by the decision of the Controller of Companies, Ramzi Nuzha, to form an audit committee on the work of CDFJ on 13/3/2017.
The Audit Committee asked CDFJ to provide them with several documents, the most important of which are:
– Valid profession license.
– A lease or title deed.
– Financial and administrative code of the company.
– Everything related to the grants received by the company and ways of disbursement.
– Financial statements of CDFJ since its foundation.
CDFJ and its administration has cooperated with the Audit Committee in compliance with the rules of transparency and governance that it has followed in its work since its inception, although the Audit Committee’s claims to control companies violate the law, as evidenced by the decision of the Court of Appeal.
CDFJ was surprised on 9/9/2017 by leaking news to the press referring it to the Attorney General without having received a letter from the Companies Controller in this regard.
The Attorney-General, Rami Tarawneh, decided to issue a decision on 30 October 2017 against CDFJ and its Executive President.
Over the period of the trial, which lasted more than a year, CDFJ suspended an administrative decision by the company controller to sign any new internal or external contracts and placed a “suspended” badge on Nidal Mansour and his partner, which hampered his work and restricted his freedom to work.
Nidal Mansour, Executive President of CDFJ, reiterated that Jordan has good margins to promote freedom of expression and information. He added that the role played by CDFJ for the last 20 years has been a reason for pride and has defended Jordan and presented it as a state that provides space for civil society organizations to work and move.
Mansour expressed his pride in the justice that was fair to him and the safeguarding of public liberties, especially the freedom of civil society.
He thanked all those who supported him everywhere in Jordan and abroad and expressed their confidence in the fairness and safety of our legal position. He added that he has been working for the sake of the homeland for the past years, stressing his keenness to continue cooperating with all official and civil authorities thus enhancing the march of democracy, reform and public freedoms.