AMMAN: A prominent Jordanian writer was shot dead Sunday on the steps of a court where he was facing charges for sharing an anti-Islam cartoon online, in an attack condemned as “heinous”.
Nahed Hattar was struck by three bullets before the alleged assassin was arrested at the scene of the shooting in Amman’s central Abdali district, said the official Petra news agency.
The assailant — shot Hattar, a 56-year-old Christian, as he made his way up the stairs of the court, a security source told AFP.
Struck in the head, he was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital, said the source.
The gunman, a 49-year-old Amman resident, gave himself up to police at the court, the source added.
An AFP journalist saw blood lying on the steps of the courthouse, where police had cordoned off the area of the shooting.
Hattar was arrested on August 13 and charged with inciting sectarian strife and insulting Islam before being released on bail in early September.
Any depiction of God is prohibited in Islam.
Hattar removed the cartoon from his Facebook page after it triggered outrage on social media.
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”.
A ‘heinous crime’
The attorney general had imposed a blackout media coverage of the case against Hattar, also known as a leftist and supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Prime Minister Hani al-Malki ordered his interior minister, Salam Hammad, to summon the writer and to initiate legal proceedings against him after he shared the cartoon on the internet.
The Jordanian government denounced his killing as a “heinous crime”.
“The law will be firmly applied to the person who committed the crime and the government will strike with an iron fist anyone who dares to take advantage of this to spread hate speech,” said spokesman Mohamad Momani.
The opposition Muslim Brotherhood and Dar al-Iftaa, the highest religious authority, also condemned the attack.
Jordan is a leading member of the US-led coalition fighting IS in neighboring Iraq and Syria, and was the target of a June 21 suicide bombing that killed seven border guards.
The kingdom has carried out air strikes targeting IS militants and hosts coalition troops on its territory.
In recent years, extremists have had other publications in their sights for publishing caricatures seen as insulting to Islam, including in Europe.
In January 2015, militants killed 12 people, including eight staff, in an attack on the offices of magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
The French satirical weekly had drawn the fury of Muslims around the world since publishing drawings of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed p.b.u.h in 2006.
Authorities in Denmark have thwarted attacks linked to the Prophet Mohammad p.b.u.h cartoons published in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in 2005.
The publication sparked deadly protests in some Muslim countries. -AFP