Alleged killer who shot atheist Jordanian writer identified

Controversial writer Nahed Hatter's arrest was ordered by Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki for posting a cartoon depicting the image of God on social media 

Sunday 25 September 2016 18:17 BST
Nahed Hatter was murdered after Jordan's Prime Minister Hani Mulki called for his cartoon to be investigated
Nahed Hatter was murdered after Jordan's Prime Minister Hani Mulki called for his cartoon to be investigated

A man who shot a Jordanian writer dead outside the Supreme Court in Amman has been identified as a local imam in his late 40s.

Jordanian media reported the alleged shooter’s name and picture on Sunday, which was supplied to them by a police officer under condition of anonymity. The reports said Riad Abdullah is from Hashi, a poor neighbourhood of the Jordanian capital, and had recently returned from a trip abroad. No further details were given.

Nahed Hattar, a prominent atheist Jordanian writer, turned himself into the authorities after a police investigation was launched into a cartoon he shared on Facebook. It depicted God in paradise, being treated as a servant by a bearded Arab man, who is smoking in bed with two women and calling for wine.

Relatives said the cartoon was meant to illustrate what Hattar saw as the twisted religious views of Isis extremists.

All physical depictions of God or the Prophet Muhammad, even respectful ones, are forbidden under mainstream Islamic tradition, and are illegal in deeply conservative Jordan.

Witnesses and police said Hattar, 56, was preparing to enter the courthouse for a hearing on Sunday morning when the gunman shot him three times at close range. The shooter was arrested at the scene.

Government spokesperson Mohammad Momani condemned the killing as a “heinous crime.”

Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar shot dead

But Hattar’s family criticised the government’s response. “The prime minister was the first one who incited against Nahed when he ordered his arrest and put him on trial for sharing the cartoon, and that ignited the public against him and led to his killing,“ said Saad Hattar, a cousin of the writer. "Many fanatics wrote on social media calling for his killing and lynching, and the government did nothing against them," a family statement said.

Hattar has long been a controversial figure in Jordan.

While born a Christian, he considered himself an atheist. He was a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad and an outspoken critic of Isis and Al-Qaeda.

His shooting was the latest in a string of deadly security lapses in Jordan.

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