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Hundreds call for Jordanian government to resign after writer killed

Hattar’s family has refused to collect his body for burial, saying authorities were warned of threats to the writer’s life and failed to act
Protesters shout slogans and hold portraits of prominent Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar, who was shot dead in Amman (AFP)

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Jordan’s capital Amman on Monday evening, calling on the government to resign for failing to prevent the murder of Christian writer Nahed Hattar over the weekend.

Hundreds of sympathisers as well as members of the writer's tribe protested outside the prime minister’s office and chanted: "The people want the fall of the government... No security, they killed Nahed in Amman!"

A bearded assailant shot dead Hattar, 56, on the steps of a court in central Amman on Sunday where he was facing trial for sharing an anti-Islamic State cartoon on Facebook under the title "God of Daesh" showing a bearded man in bed smoking with two women lying on either side, and addressing God as a servant.

The attacker fired three bullets before he was arrested at the scene, official media said. A judicial source told AFP the assailant was charged with premeditated murder but that it is believed he acted alone and was not linked to any militant group. The 49-year-old gunman faces the death penalty if convicted, with Jordan ending an eight-year moratorium on state executions in 2014.

Hattar’s family has so far refused to collect his body for burial, charging that authorities were warned of threats to the writer’s life and had failed to act.

The protestors carried his portrait and they called for the resignation of both Prime Minister Hani al-Malki and Interior Minister Salama Hammad.

"We handed over 200 names (of people who had threatened the writer) to the governor (of Amman), including that of the assassin, and demanded protection," said Khaled Hattar, one of the victim's brothers.

"But he refused, saying there was 'no real threat'."

Jordanians light candles for prominent Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar (AFP)

Following the killing, Jordan's judiciary introduced a media blackout on the murder, with the information ministry saying they were trying to preserve "the secrecy of the investigation" and that the blackout applied to both social and traditional media.

In the wake of the attack, Amnesty International condemned the Jordanian government and its strict blasphemy laws, saying they were “fuelling” a climate that bred violence.

"By using strict blasphemy laws to prosecute a person for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, Jordanian authorities are fuelling a climate in which violent threats against people whose views are deemed offensive by others are allowed to flourish," said Philip Luther of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa department.

The UN's cultural agency also condemned the killing.

"This crime constitutes a grave attack on freedom of expression and affects Jordanian society as a whole," said UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova.

Meanwhile, in Morocco a well-known Moroccan cartoonist Khalid Geddar said on Monday he had asked for police protection after being threatened for reposting the cartoon that led to Hattar's murder.

Geddar, who runs the satirical magazine Baboubi, reposted the drawing on Facebook on Sunday as a posthumous tribute.

Geddar said he received several threatening messages and comments, including: "Your fate is death and slaughter - you are the enemy of God."

"I consider this comment to be a direct threat, a call to kill me just because I republished the drawing that led to the death of the Jordanian writer," he told AFP.

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