Jordan: Journalist shot dead ahead of cartoon trial

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Jordanian Press Association (JPA), have condemned the killing of journalist Nahed Hattar, on the steps of the court where he was on trial accused of offending Islam.

The journalist, aged 56, was accused in August of insulting religion and inciting sedition following a caricature he posted on his Facebook account seen as offensive to Islam by the authorities. On 25 September, he had been summoned by the Prime Minister and the Interior Minister to initiate the legal proceedings against him. He was struck by three bullets on the steps of the court in Amman’s central Abdali district and was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

“We hold the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior and the security services responsible for Nahed’s killing,” the journalist’s brother Majed told media. “Nahed Hattar was killed in cold blood in front of the highest institution of justice in Jordan”. His family said the writer had no protection despite having asked for it after receiving death threats on Facebook and by phone.

The alleged assassin gave himself up to police and was arrested at the scene of the shooting. He was remanded for 15 days and charged with premeditated murder, meaning he could face the death penalty if convicted. Reports said he acted alone and was not linked to any terrorist group. Jordan's judiciary slapped a media blackout on the murder alleging "the secrecy of the investigation".

Nahed Hattar wrote for the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar after beingbanned from writing for the Jordanian press in the recent years for his antipathy towards Islamists and his support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

On 13 August, he was arrested and charged with inciting sectarian strife and insulting Islam after posting a caricature portraying God. At the time, he explained on Facebook that the cartoon made fun of “terrorists and how they imagine God and heaven, and does not insult God in any way”. Any depiction of God is prohibited in Islam. The attorney general had imposed a blackout on media coverage of the case. Hattar was released on bail in early September pending his trial.

Tareq Al Moumani, president of Jordanian Press Association said: "We condemn this cowardly crime by a criminal full of hatred who killed because of differences in opinions”.

The IFJ backed its Jordanian affiliate in condemning the killing and offered its condolences to the journalist’s family and friends.

“We strongly stand by the freedom of expression and the right to dissent in Jordan and we urge the authorities to protect critical voices in the country so that this outrageous killing never happens again. The culprit must face the full force of the law. However, Jordan will not deliver justice for Hattar by only prosecuting the man who pulled the trigger. There must be a commission to review the government response to the thousands of hateful messages that invited someone to kill him including by politicians and holders of public office as well as the failure of the government to provide him with proper protection,” said IFJ President, Philippe Leruth.

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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