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‘Al Qaeda’s poet’ released on bail, faces charges of inciting terror

By Taylor Luck - Sep 09,2014 - Last updated at Sep 09,2014

AMMAN — Mohammad Al Zahiri, a senior member of the hard-line Jordanian Salafist movement, was released on bail Tuesday, defence attorney Moussa Abdallat said. 

Police had arrested Zahiri, known among Islamist circles as “Al Qaeda’s poet”, on
July 28 in his hometown of Irbid, 80km north of Amman, for disseminating pro-Al Qaeda slogans and poems via the Internet.

Authorities had referred the 40-year-old to the State Security Court (SSC) and charged him with “disseminating speech inciting terrorism”, as per the recently passed Anti-Terrorism Law, marking the first ever application of the controversial legislation.

Despite his release, authorities have not dropped charges against Zahiri, whose trial at the SSC is expected to commence later this month, security sources said. 

Members of the Salafist movement say the offending materials were poems praising the victories of Al Qaeda’s Syria branch Jabhat Al Nusra and posts in jihadist online forums calling on fighters aligned with the militant Islamic State (IS) group, which operates in Iraq and Syria, to rejoin Al Qaeda’s ranks. 

Zahiri is a close ally of Al Qaeda spiritual leader Abu Mohammad Al Maqdisi and has been a vocal critic of the group’s rival, IS. 

In his final posts and statements prior to his arrest, the Irbid resident declared the group’s recently announced "caliphate" as illegitimate and questioned its targeting of fellow Muslims, jihadists and Christians. 

Meanwhile, authorities have arrested five members of the Salafist movement this week.

According to Abdallat, security officers detained five citizens in east Amman between Saturday and Sunday for their alleged connections to “terrorist organisations”.

Islamist sources say the five men were all members of the hard-line Salafist movement and known supporters of IS.

Authorities have arrested over 50 suspected IS members and sympathisers across the country in the past six weeks.

Jihadi Salafist leaders claim that some 1,800 Jordanians are currently fighting under the umbrella of IS in Iraq and Syria.

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