Rights group calls on Jordan to drop lawsuit against poet

Rights group calls on Jordan to drop lawsuit against poet
2 min read
13 November, 2021
Article 19 declared their "absolute solidarity" with the poet who is facing charges of "insulting religious feeling" after calling for an improved Islamic call to prayer.
The poet is facing criminal charges of insulting others' religious feelings, according to Article 278 of Jordan's penal code [Getty]

International human rights organisation Article 19 have demanded that Jordanian authorities drop lawsuits against writer and poet Zulaikha Abu-Risha and grant her freedom of expression, in a statement released on Friday.

The NGO, dedicated to "defending freedom of expression", declared their "absolute solidarity" with Abu-Risha, 79, who is facing criminal charges of insulting others' religious feelings, according to Article 278 of the Jordanian penal code.

Amman's Public Prosecution Office raised several lawsuits against Abu-Risha last September over Facebook posts she wrote in August calling for muezzins - those who perform the Islamic call to prayer - to sound more "harmonious" than "melancholic".

"Article 19... calls on the judicial authorities to drop all lawsuits brought against [Abu-Risha]... imposing restrictions on individuals simply for expressing their opinions and... subjecting them to harassment is a source of great concern," Article 19 said.

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"The Kingdom of Jordan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since 1975 and is therefore obligated to respect the right to freedom of expression... including in religious matters," the NGO continued.

Article 278 stipulates that those who publish something "calculated or tending to outrage the religious feelings... of others" may be punished by imprisonment for up to three months or receive a fine of up to 20 dinars.

"I am innocent of the accusation... the laws of insulting religions are to confiscate the right to expression," Abu-Risha said in a Facebook post on September 28.

"In my long life, I have never needed more support as in recent years when the level of popular tyranny rose under the guise of religion," she said.

Abu-Risha has sparked controversy before after publishing an article in 2016 in which she said that Quran - the holy Islamic scripture - "memorisation centres are brainwashing and presenting ideological discourse".