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Writer turns himself in after cartoon sparks outrage

By Mohammad Ghazal - Aug 13,2016 - Last updated at Aug 13,2016

Nahed Hattar

AMMAN — Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar turned himself in to the Amman governor on Saturday after Prime Minister Hani Mulki ordered an investigation into a cartoon the journalist shared on Facebook.

Amman Governor Khaled Abu Zeid listened to Hattar’s statement in the presence of his lawyer and ordered his detention pending his referral to the specialised judicial authority, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

Mulki on Friday asked Interior Minister Salameh Hammad to investigate the incident and to summon Hattar through the administrative governor for legal procedures.

Hattar sparked outrage on Friday after sharing a caricature on his Facebook page depicting a bearded man in heaven, smoking and in bed with women, asking God to bring him wine and cashews.

In the cartoon, the man also asks God to clear his dishes and put a door on his tent and knock before entering 

Social media users said the cartoon was insulting and accused Hattar of crossing red lines. 

Media expert Khaled Qudah said Hattar had violated the law by sharing the cartoon.

“What Hattar republished is insulting and is not considered freedom of expression. He can be immediately detained for violating the law,” Qudah told The Jordan Times on Saturday.

“Hattar can be detained pending further investigation for violating article 150 of the Penal Code that bans contempt of religions and also for violating the Electronic Crimes Law,” he added.

“What Hattar did incites hatred and sectarianism and may cause division... Preserving national security and social harmony and the public interest comes before freedom of expression even in international law.” 

Also on Saturday, the Ifta Department issued a statement criticising the insult to the divine entity, Islam and religious symbols.

The department said a group of people had taken advantage of the calls to fight violence and extremism, and that they were offending religious symbols and defaming Islam under the pretext of combating violence, Petra reported.

“This group of people is no less extreme than the extremists and radicals themselves.... This group of people fuels extremism and sows seeds of sedition in the community,” the department said.

Early Saturday, before turning himself in, Hattar published an apology on Facebook page, explaining that the cartoon depicted the “God of Daesh”.  

He said he shared the cartoon to mock terrorists, and how they view heaven and God. It was not meant to insult God, he added. 

“Those who became angry at the cartoon are the kind of people who did not get the point,” Hattar said, adding that Islamists with a Daesh- like ideology are using the cartoon to settle political scores.  

Meanwhile, several Twitter users called for legal action to be taken against the writer, tweeting using the hashtag “Nahed Hattar does not represent us” in Arabic. 

“He should be imprisoned. We will not accept anything other than this”, tweeted Nart Mola (@nmola).

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