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Poet sentenced to one year in jail

(ANHRI/IFEX) - A Jordanian court has issued a ruling sentencing Islam Samhan, 27, to one year in prison and fining him 10000 JD (approx. US$14,100). He was accused of ridiculing the religion and divine doctrines, offending prophets and not registering his publication at the Jordanian department of printing and publishing.

The story dates back to March 2008, when Islam published his divan "Rahaqet Dhel" (Gracefulness of a Shadow). He faced a campaign led by Moslem Brothers and the Jordanian Mufti accusing him of blasphemy because of some of the verses he wrote. The campaign resulted in Samhan being prosecuted and detained for 15 days on 19 October 2008.

Samhan stated that he had registered his book in the National Library and submitted copies at the Jordanian department of printing and publishing in early 2009, and that some ministries and government institutes bought copies of it.

Samhan said, "It is not at all about blasphemy, but because of the poem 'When features are that clear', describing how dim-witted intelligence people are, as they convince the Arab ruler that his own people are but a senseless pile of lumber".

ANHRI condemns this heavy-handed sentence and says it could lead to attacks on Samhan. It thereby calls on all human rights organizations working on freedom of expression and opinion and the Jordanian writers association to assume their responsibilities for preventing potential attacks.

ANHRI asserts that literature should only be debated in newspapers and forums and calls on the Jordanian government not to chain words and drag poems to court, which it sees as an extremely violent breach of all international conventions regarding freedom of expression and opinion.

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