AMMAN (AFP) – A Jordanian student arrested for having insulted King Abdullah II has been freed on the express orders of the monarch, an official source said on Thursday.
News of Hatim al-Shuli’s release from prison came a week after rights watchdog Human Rights Watch urged Jordan to free him and cancel all charges against him.
The official said charges of lese majeste against Shuli and 18 other people were also cancelled on orders of the king.
Shuli, a journalism student at Irbid University, was arrested on July 25 and charged three days later with lese majeste “and causing national strife, over a poem he denies writing that criticised the king,” HRW said on Friday.
“Jordan’s military prosecutor at the State Security Court should immediately order the release of Hatim al-Shuli, a university student, and rescind charges against him,” it said.
“Arrests for things like writing poems unfortunately are regular occurrences in Jordan,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at the US-based rights group.
“It’s about time Jordan got rid of laws that criminalise peaceful criticism of its rulers,” he said.
“The main issue here is not even whether Hatim al-Shuli wrote this poem. The main issue is that Jordanian officials see nothing wrong with treating someone who writes a poem as a national security threat,” Wilcke added.
A conviction for lese majeste in Jordan can result in a penalty of between one and three years in prison.