Jordan cartoonist assassination: Suspect charged with premeditated murder, ‘terrorism’
Police and civilians gather outside the court in Amman's Abdali neighborhood, where cartoonist Nahed Hattar was shot and killed. (AFP/Ahmad Alameen)
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The Criminal Court prosecutor on Sunday charged the man suspected of assassinating Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar with premeditated murder and decided to refer him to the State Security Court (SSC) on terrorism charges, a senior judicial source said.
"The Criminal Court prosecutor questioned the suspect and concluded that he should stand trial at the SSC because one of the charges was carrying out subversive acts," a senior judicial source told The Jordan Times.
The source added that the suspect, Riad Abdullah, is expected to be transferred today to the SSC for questioning and indictment.
Security sources said the suspected killer, a 49-year-old resident of east Amman, was known as an extremist.
Hattar, who sparked outrage after sharing a caricature that was considered insulting to religious beliefs, was apparently going to attend a court session, accompanied by family members.
The caricature depicted a bearded man in heaven, smoking and in bed with women, asking a figure resembling God to bring him wine and cashews.
In his initial confession to police, the suspect said he "targeted Hattar after hearing that he posted an offensive caricature on his Facebook page and decided to kill him", according to the judicial source.
The suspect confessed to buying a gun one week before the incident and on Sunday headed to the Palace of Justice and "the minute he saw him he shot him", the source added.
If convicted of the charges, the suspect could receive the death penalty.
In mid-August the writer and political activist turned himself in to the Amman governor after the government ordered an investigation into the caricature issue.
He remained in custody until two weeks ago when he was released on bail.
Witnesses at the site in front of the Palace of Justice described a chaotic scene that emerged after the shooting, which occurred at around 9:30am.
“I was helping a woman with some documents when we heard gunshots,” said a man who helps court-goers prepare their official documents.
“I looked to my right and I saw the body of a man on the floor next to the courthouse steps so we immediately ran in the other direction fearing for our lives,” the man, who preferred not to be identified, told The Jordan Times.
Another man with the same profession said he was also busy helping a man with official documents, and said that he thought the gunshot noise was just firecrackers.
“It is really horrific. I have been stationed here at the Palace of Justice since 1993. This is the first time we encounter such an incident here,” the man, who also refused to identify himself, said.
Witnesses told the Jordan Times that the perpetrator turned himself in to police who were stationed at the Palace of Justice after committing the crime.
The Government on Sunday condemned the "heinous crime", the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
The Council of Ministers said that the crime is an "alien" act to Jordanian society.
The Cabinet directed the interior and the justice ministers to follow up on the investigation, and ensure that justice is served, stressing that swift measures will be taken against those who use the issue to promote hate speech.
The Senate also condemned the "heinous crime", stressing that the court has the final say on all issues, according to Petra.
Political parties, community leaders, professional associations and labour unions denounced the crime, saying that the Kingdom has a just and fair judicial system, and that nobody has the right to take the law into his/her own hands.
The Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists also condemned the murder as an attack on democracy and pluralism in Jordan.
By Rana Husseini
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