Al Wakeel News bosses jailed over blasphemous cartoon of Jesus

The Jordanian authorities have arrested the publisher and a chief editor. They are accused of having fomented  hatred and the confessional divisions. The two risk from six months to a maximum of three years in prison. The schools of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem led the protest.

Amman (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Jordanian authorities yesterday arrested the publisher and a prominent journalist of an online news website, for having published an image (in the picture) of Jesus deemed "offensive" by the Christian community. Mohammed al-Wakeel, who directs the Al Wakeel News portal, has been accused of blasphemy along with a chief editor, for "fomenting" hatred and sectarian divisions.

According to the indictment, the two risk from a minimum of six months to a maximum of three years in prison.

At the origin of the controversy a "magazine" image of Leonardo's "Last Supper", published in recent days by the website and which sparked an outcry among users. The 16th century painting represents Jesus' last supper with his disciples and has great symbolic value for Christians.

The modified version sees the star of Turkish cuisine Nusret Gokce, better known with the name of Salt Bae, standing behind Christ while making the gesture that made him famous: sprinkling salt on the plate from on high. And one of the disciples has the face of Jesus tattooed on his leg.

Following the online protest campaign (led by the schools of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem), Al Wakeel News apologized and removed the image from the site, speaking of an involuntary "mistake" of the editorial staff. The authorities have therefore convened the publisher, which also produces several programs for TV and radio in the country, to the post office police (responsible for cyber- crimes) for interrogation.

Christians make up about 6% of the population in Jordan, out of a total of 6.6 million inhabitants; in general the Hascemite kingdom assures religious freedom and the faithful are free to practice worship.