CAIRO: A Jordanian court ruled on Sunday that a Sudanese writer, Al Neil Abdel Kader of the Ward Publishing House, would be forced to pay a fine of 10,000 Jordanian Dinars ($15,000) for allegedly “supporting Shi’sim,” the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) reported on Wednesday. The ruling has been widely condemned by human rights groups and activists in the region as an example of the lack of free speech in the Middle East.
According to ANHRI, the writer and publishing house was accused of supporting the Shi’a Islamic sect after publishing a book titled “Letters fo the Sheikh Neil … Reviewing Islamic Thought.”
The Cairo-based media freedom watchdog said that the publishing house had sent a copy of the book to the Jordanian Department of Press and Publication for it to be licensed. But, the department instead filed a legal case against the publishing house and its author.
“It relied on a report written by one of its employees, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, who considered the writer of the book [to be] a supporter of Shi’ism,” ANHRI said in its press statement. The watchdog added that the department called “for transferring the case to the Attorney General for violating articles of the Press and Publications Law and speaking in contempt of religions.”
It highlights the ongoing struggle between governments and writers in the Middle East, the rights group said in its statement.
In the press release, ANHRI said it stressed “its refusal to all kinds of censorship on thought and creativity.”
The group demanded that Jordanian authorities “respect international conventions that guarantee the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The book is an effort made by writer to represent an idea, therefore, opposing views can only be discussed in an academic and intellectual forums and imposed in courts.”
It is unclear if an appeal will be made or whether the publishing house will pay the massive fine.