No plans to abolish lèse-majesté law — judicial source

An undated photo of the Palace of Justice. (Photo: Amjad Al-Tawil/JNews)
AMMAN — The judiciary is revisiting cases of lèse-majesté to ensure that defendants and suspects receive justice, an informed judicial source said on Saturday.اضافة اعلان

He insisted that there are no plans to change the relevant law, responding to speculations that Article 195 of the Penal Code might be abolished. Under the provision, any insult to the King, Queen, or Crown Prince, regardless of the means, is punishable by one to three years in prison.

In addition, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, no action is planned regarding persons already convicted for the crime and the rulings in their cases cannot be contested.

His remarks to Jordan News came amid speculations that there would be legislative changes that might include total abolishment of Article 195. 

“Each case should be reviewed separately and given the right and appropriate judgment. I believe in the integrity of the judiciary,” the source explained. 

The rising hopes among activists and predictions by jurists were triggered by a reported phone call by His Majesty King Abdullah to a woman convicted for lèse-majesté, her acquittal by the Court of Appeal, and a judicial move to compile all similar cases for revision. 

Attorney General Hassan Al-Abdallat has ordered prosecutors general to provide him with a list of lèse-majesté cases being seen by the judiciary, a move interpreted by jurists as a prelude to a review of these cases.

Lawyers told Jordan News that Abdallat’s request possibly foreshadows new changes in legislation regarding the freedom of speech. 

“I believe that if these cases are still at the courts, and a final ruling has not been issued yet, there will be some modifications on the legislation dealing with them,” or it may even be abolished, said Rateb Al Nawaiseh, a lawyer, in an interview with Jordan News. 

Abdallat’s decision followed developments related to the case of 34-year-old Athar Al-Dabbas, which went viral online. 

She had been sentenced to one year in prison for lese-majesté by insulting King Abdullah. Dabbas was reportedly convicted for saying “My father is better than the King” during an argument over a parking space with another woman. The incident triggered a debate over freedom of speech in the Kingdom.

His Majesty King Abdullah reportedly called Dabbas to express his full support. “He told me, in his exact words, that ‘you are like a sister to me, keep your morale high,’” Dabbas wrote on her Facebook page.  “And ‘you should be proud of your father and we are all with you and I wanted to check up on you to make sure you are okay.’”

On Thursday, the Court of Appeal reviewed the evidence presented in the case. The court concluded that Dabbas was not guilty of the crime attributed to her because the evidence presented revealed that the appellant did not mean to offend the King nor harm his dignity in any way.

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