Jordan frees Islamist preacher held in incitement case

Sunday 15/05/2016

His release comes following criticism from rights campaigners

AMMAN - Jordan on Tuesday freed an Islamist preacher imprisoned for nearly a year for inciting hatred against the regime on social media, his lawyer said, following criticism from rights campaigners.

Iyad Qunaibi, a 40-year-old Kuwaiti-born Jordanian, was arrested in mid-June for posting an audio message entitled "Jordan on the brink of the abyss" on his Facebook page.

In it he criticised Jordanian relations with Israel -- the two neighbours are bound by a peace treaty -- and the "Westernisation" of Jordanian society.

Qunaibi, who holds a doctorate in pharmacology from the University of Houston in the United States, was sentenced in December to two years in prison, which was increased to three years on appeal.

The State Security Court on Monday reduced the sentence and freed Qunaibi based on time already served, his lawyer Abdelkader al-Khatib said.

His conviction was denounced at the time by New York-based Human Rights Watch, which said the ruling "signals a harsher approach by Jordanian authorities toward speech-related crimes".

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