BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Persian Pashto Turkish French
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Middle East  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Monday, 17 February, 2003, 17:33 GMT
Jordanians jailed over 'Prophet slur'

Jordanians pray
The journalists were accused of insulting Islam
Three Jordanians have been sentenced to jail terms over the publication of an article touching on the sex life of the Prophet Muhammad.

The three faced charges of insulting Islam and damaging the prestige of the state with the article published in the independent al-Hilal (The Crescent) weekly newspaper.

They were also found guilty of destabilising society, propagating perversity and circulating false rumours with the article published on 14 January, about Muhammad relationships with his wives, in particular his favourite wife, Aisha.

Muhannad Mubaideen, the author, was sentenced to 18 months in jail, but his sentence was commuted to six months.

The judge in the case said he commuted Mubaideen's sentence to six months to allow him to reconsider his actions, without elaborating.

By condemning these journalists, the government wanted to cut the grass from under the Islamists' feet

Nidal Mansour
Human rights activist
Roman Haddad, the chief editor of al-Hilal, was given a 14-month sentence, which was commuted to two months, while Nasser Qamash, the managing editor, was given 15 months, which was commuted to three months.

The judge blamed them for sanctioning the article.

Press curbs

BBC correspondent Caroline Hawley in Amman says the subject of the Prophet's sex life is a major taboo and the article infuriated Islamists.

But the fact it was considered a crime to be heard in a state security court has alarmed human rights activists, who say civil liberties have been dramatically eroded since the 11 September attacks on the United States.

The sentences, handed down by the state security court, cannot be appealed.

But the judge told the Associated Press that two of the journalists could be freed if they pay an undetermined fine.

A defence lawyer said Haddad and Qamash were ready to pay the fine.

Nidal Mansour, who works for a centre that defends journalistic freedoms, says Jordan's Islamist parties, which hold strong sway in the kingdom's labour unions, pressured the government into taking action.

"By condemning these journalists, the government wanted to cut the grass from under the Islamists' feet and prevent them from using the text to spearhead" their campaign for the coming legislative elections, he told French news agency AFP.

Closed down

The three journalists had pleaded innocent at the start of their trial at the end of January.

They testified they had not meant to libel Muhammad, but that the article had been extracted from historic and religious references tackling his sexual life with his wife.

Al-Hilal, an independent publication with an estimated circulation of 7,000, was closed down on when the three were arrested on 16 January.

The judge ruled it should remain closed for another month as punishment.

'Renewed vigour'

The article, entitle Aisha in the Prophet's Home, focussed on the Muhammad's relationship with his wives, and Aisha in particular.

The article alleged that the prophet had become sexually potent when he married Aisha, the text of the indictment said.

The article said Aisha was the only virgin among the prophet's many wives and mentioned that with her the prophet had attained the sexual vigour of "40 men".

Correspondents say the charge of "damaging the prestige of the state" was levelled notably because Jordan's Hashemite rulers claim descent from the family of the Prophet Muhammad.

See also:

08 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Middle East
28 Oct 02 | Country profiles
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes