A prominent Jordanian writer was shot dead yesterday on the steps of a court where he was facing charges for sharing an anti-Islam cartoon on Facebook.
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 steps outside the court, a security source told AFP.
Hit in the head, he was pronounced dead on arriving at hospital, the source said.
The gunman, a 49-year-old resident of the capital, gave himself up to police at the court, the source added.
Media reports said he was a former preacher in an Amman mosque.
An AFP journalist saw blood on the steps of the building where police had cordoned off the area of the shooting.
Mohamed al-Jaghbir, Hattar’s friend, told AFP he had witnessed the killing.
“We were climbing the steps when a bearded man...got a pistol out of a bag he was carrying and fired at Nahed Hattar,” he said.
Hattar’s family said the writer had no protection despite having asked for it after receiving death threats on Facebook and by phone.
Hattar was a political commentator known for his antipathy towards Islamists including Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood and also his support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Hattar removed the offending cartoon after it triggered outrage on social media.
He was arrested on August 13 and charged with inciting sectarian strife and insulting Islam, before being released on bail in early September.
The attorney general had imposed a blackout on media coverage of the case against Hattar, who was also known as a leftist.
Prime Minister Hani al-Malki had ordered Interior Minister Salam Hammad to summon the writer and to initiate legal proceedings against him.
Hattar’s brother Majed, who accompanied him to his trial, yesterday blamed the government for his death.
“We hold the prime minister, the minister of the interior and the security services responsible for Nahed’s killing,” Majed said.
“Nahed Hattar was killed in cold blood in front of the highest institution of justice in Jordan.”
The government denounced the killing as “heinous” and said the law would be “firmly applied to the person who committed the crime”.
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 neighbouring Iraq and Syria, and was targeted in a June 21 suicide bombing that killed seven border guards.
The kingdom has carried out air strikes targeting IS militants and also hosts coalition troops on its territory.
In recent years, extremists have attacked other publications 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 Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which published certain drawings that are considered offensive.
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