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Court acquits well-known columnist of defaming Parliament

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that Khaled Mahadin, a well-known columnist who writes for the government-owned "Al Rai" newspaper, has been acquitted of insulting Parliament in an article he posted on the website Khabberni on 13 February 2009, criticising the personal expenses of parliamentarians. Mahadin, aged 68, was an adviser to the late King Hussein.

"This decision is a step in the right direction," Reporters Without Borders said.

The article that prompted a lawsuit by parliamentarians was entitled "For God's Sake, Abdallah." Urging King Abdallah II to dissolve Parliament because of the "illegal privileges" enjoyed by its members, Mahadin criticised "the work of parliamentarians and the privileges given to them at the expense of Jordanian tax payers" and called on them "to cut spending and cancel plans to increase their salaries in a bid to face the global economic crisis."

As his article was posted online, Mahadin was tried under the criminal code instead of the press law. He faced a possible two-year jail sentence on a charge of defamation under article 364 of the criminal code.

A first hearing was held on 8 March. The next hearing, on 30 March, was postponed until 21 April so that Mahadin would go abroad for health reasons. The acquittal was issued on 27 April.

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