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Jordan arrests journalists over 'offensive' Jesus image

The publisher and editor were arrested over an image of Jesus [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 December, 2018

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An altered version of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" featuring celebrity Turkish chef Salt Bae sparked outrage.

A publisher and an editor at a news website were arrested by Jordanian authorities over an image of Jesus deemed "offensive" to Christians, a judicial source said on Monday.

Mohammed al-Wakeel, who runs the Al Wakeel News website, was accused along with an editor of inciting sectarian strife, a charge that could land them in jail for between six months and three years.

The website had earlier published a retouched version of Leonardo da Vinci's 15th-century mural painting of "The Last Supper" that sparked widespread controversy on social media.

The original painting, which depicts Jesus' final meal with his disciples ahead of his crucifixion, is highly symbolic to Christians.

The altered version shows celebrity Turkish chef Nusret Gokce, who goes by the name Salt Bae, standing behind Jesus and doing his famous salt-sprinkling gesture.

One of the disciples has Jesus's face tattooed on his leg.

Following the outcry online, A Wakeel apologised and removed the image, saying it was an unintended "mistake" by a trainee editor.

The publisher, who also hosts several radio talk shows in Jordan, was later summoned for questioning at a cyber-crimes unit.

Christians make up around six percent of the country's 6.6 million population.

The arrests came as local media reported amendments to a cybercrimes law submitted to Jordan's parliament will be withdrawn, following concern over the limitations it will have on freedom of expression.

The proposed bill was set to quash online criticism of the government, activists claimed, blocking yet another outlet to voice their frustration over tax policies and a crippling economy.

Last month, Amnesty International issued a statement referring to the proposed changes as a devastating blow to freedom of expression in the country.

"The proposed changes to Jordan's already flawed cybercrimes law are extremely worrying," Heba Morayef, Amnesty's International MENA director said in a statement.

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