Jordan releases cartoonist Emad Hajjaj after days of arrest for 'offending' the UAE

Jordan releases cartoonist Emad Hajjaj after days of arrest for 'offending' the UAE
Emad Hajjaj, who was detained in Jordan for 'offending' the United Arab Emirates, has been released by authorities.
2 min read
30 August, 2020
Hajjaj was detained in Jordan for offending the UAE [Facebook]
top cartoonist jailed for publishing a drawing considered offensive to the UAE has been released in Jordan, authorities confirmed on Sunday.

Emad Hajjaj was released after the court accepted a sponsor request by the Jordanian Journalists Syndicate, the head of the organisation, Rakan Al-Saidah said on Sunday.

On Thursday, Amman’s general prosecutor charged the cartoonist with "carrying out acts and publishing material aimed at undermining relations with a friendly country", a judicial source said.

He was then referred to the state security court, which announced it would keep Hajjaj in detention for 14 pending investigation. The cartoonist was expected to face five years if found guilty.

The release came just a day after Jordanian activists and their allies across the world launched a "Twitter storm" demanding his immediate release.

The hashtag #Freedom4EmadHajjaj was used as part of the pressure campaign for the 52-year-old, who is a popular cartoonist in Jordan and across the Arab world.

His drawings, which have appeared in numerous domestic and pan-Arab publications including The New Arab’s Arabic sister platform, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, focus mainly on political, economic and social issues.

On Friday, Human Rights Watch lead calls on Jordan's authorities to release Hajjaj.

"Calling a satirical cartoon a terrorism offence only confirms that Jordan intends to muzzle citizens who speak freely," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the New York-based watchdog.

"This arrest sends the message that Jordanian authorities would rather abuse the rights of their own citizens than risk offending a gulf leader's feelings," he added.

The apparently "offensive" cartoon published by Hajjaj to his Facebook page is entitled "Israel asks America not to sell F-35 planes to the Emirates", showing Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed in Zayed Al-Nahyan carring a dove blazoned with the Israeli flag.

The dove spits on the face of the powerful royal, known as MBZ. The spittle which lands on his cheek is covered with the formulation "Spit-35", written in Arabic.

Read also: Jordanians launch solidarity campaign with Prince Ali and cartoonist Emad Hajjaj over UAE criticism

The sale of the fighter jets to the UAE has dampened the exultant mood surrounding a Washington-brokered deal to normalise ties between the Jewish state and the Gulf country.

Jordan is one of two Arab countries to have a full peace treaty with Israel, and enjoys strong relations with other oil-rich Gulf nations.

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