New York, February 18, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is encouraged that two journalists sentenced to prison yesterday by Jordan’s State Security Court were released this evening. However, CPJ is gravely concerned that a third journalist remains in jail.
On February 17, Nasser Qamash, Roman Haddad, and Mohannad Mubaidin, editor-in-chief, managing editor, and writer, respectively, for the weekly magazine Al-Hilal, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to six months for publishing an article that insulted the Prophet Mohammed and contained “false rumors,” “insulted the dignity of the state,” and caused instability—all of which are crimes under Jordan’s Penal Code.
Mubaidin was sentenced to six months in prison, while Haddad received two months, and Qamash three months. The court retroactively banned Al-Hilal for two months beginning January 16, when the State Security Court prosecutor had initially halted the magazine’s publication.
Today, on Tuesday, February 18, the court commuted the prison sentences against Qamash and Haddad into fines, and both men—who have been detained since January 16—were released this evening. However, the article’s author, Mubaidin, who was also arrested on January 16, will begin serving his sentence immediately.
The charges against the three journalists stemmed from an article published in the January 14 edition of the weekly that described in sexual terms why the Prophet Mohammed preferred Aisha over his other wives.
“It is an outrage that these journalists were tried before a State Security Court and jailed because of material they published,” said CPJ Middle East program coordinator Joel Campagna. “Journalists should never be subject to criminal prosecution or prison because of their work, even if what they write may be considered offensive to some. We call on King Abdullah to ensure that Mohannad Mubaidin is immediately released.”