Update 8/30/20: Emad is freed. He still faces trial and a possible two years in prison for his cartoon. Read more here.
My friend and longtime CagleCartoonist Emad Hajjaj was arrested Wednesday in his home country of Jordan. He is charged with the “cybercrime” of “insulting an Arab country” and faces up to five years in prison for drawing an “offensive” cartoon criticizing Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates. Emad was arrested five hours after posting the cartoon to his newspaper site.
CagleCartoons.com has syndicated Emad’s work to newspapers in America and around the world for the past fifteen years. He is a dear friend of mine and of many of the CagleCartoonists who have partied with Emad on our annual trips to the cartoon festival in St Just le Martel, France. Emad is the president of the Jordanian Cartoonists Association and cartoonists in Jordan have been protesting Emad’s arrest.
Emad was arrested just five hours after posting the cartoon to his newspaper’s Web site. Emad draws for the Al- Araby newspaper in London which has posted an article about his arrest. (Al-Araby is a longtime subscriber to CagleCartoons.com.)
Emad’s cartoon depicts UAE leader, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, commonly called “MBZ”, holding an Israeli dove that has spit on his face, with the spittle in the shape of a US F-35 fighter jet and labeled “spit 35” in Arabic. The US recently brokered a treaty between Israel and the UAE, and in a separate but possibly related deal the US agreed to sell advanced F-35 jets to the UAE. Israel is opposing the sale, arguing that Israel’s defense advantage in the region would be compromised if UAE gets the jets. Emad’s drawing shows that Israel has embarrassed MBZ by blocking the sale after UAE agreed to the peace deal
Al-Araby writes that Emad was referred to the “notorious State Security Court” by Amman’s Attorney General. “The SSC – whose judges are appointed by the prime minister – has jurisdiction over crimes including drugs, explosives, weapons, espionage and high treason, however it has increasingly been used to try peaceful protesters and government critics.”
“The country’s infamous 2015 cybercrimes law was widely criticized by rights groups, who say it is a pretext to crack down on any individual who criticizes the government. Amendments added to the law in 2018 also made the distribution of articles considered slanderous punishable with a prison sentence.”
Emad is being held in jail for up to fourteen days, pending the conclusion of an investigation, after that Emad may face charges and a possible five year prison sentence.
UPDATED 8/27/20 1:00pm PDT: According to a Committee to Protect Journalists article quoting the Center for Defending the Freedom of Journalists director, Nidal Mansour, Emad was brought to the prosecutor’s office today and charged with “disturbing relations with a sister country” under the country’s counter-terrorism law,” “If convicted, Hajjaj could face a minimum of 10 years hard labor, according to 2014 amendments to the counter-terrorism law.” “The public prosecutor’s office ordered Hajjaj to be detained for 14 days and transferred him to Salt Prison, northwest of Amman.”
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) has posted an alert on Emad’s arrest.
In the group photo below, Emad is at the right, I’m second from the right and Emad’s cartoonist brother Osama is second from the left. We’re pictured with Mexican cartoonists at CartónClub’s La Linea del Fuego exhibition at the El Universal newspaper in Mexico City a couple of years ago. Emad is friends with cartoonists around the globe and we’ve had a great time traveling together to exotic, cartooning destinations. Since Emad is everyone’s friend in our tight-knit, global community of editorial cartoonists, his arrest comes as a quite a shock in our small world.
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