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Hearing of Jordanian journalist sentenced to death postponed

A Qatari appeals court has postponed the hearing of Firas Al Majali, the Jordanian journalist sentenced to death on October 22, by a Qatari court, on charges of espionage.

A Qatari appeals court has postponed the hearing of Firas Al Majali, the Jordanian journalist sentenced to death on October 22, by a Qatari court, on charges of espionage.

Al Majali’s lawyer, Essa bin Hamad Al Manai told Arabian Business the postponing of the case, “depends on the time it takes for the state prosecutor to reply to the appeal lodged.”

The appeals court postponed the hearing to February 24, at which point the state prosecutor will deliver his briefing and then the case will be determined by another ruling, Al Manai said. “I expect this will take no less than one and a half months, but this will depend on how busy the appeal circuit is and other administrative procedures.”

Explaining the appeal of the death sentence Al Manai said, “We questioned the reasons of the ruling. We voiced our point of view that these are insufficient reasons from which a decision can be made.”

Al Majali who used to work for Qatari state television is part of a prominent family in Jordan, whose uncles were Prime Ministers of Jordan. He was arrested on charges of spying for Jordanian intelligence in January 2002. Jordan has been engaged in diplomatic efforts to resolve the case in the hope that Al Majali will receive a pardon.

The judge presiding over the case, said in October, when he handed down the sentence, “The information sent by the defendant via the internet constitutes a criminal offence after reviewing relations between the two states.”

Al Majali’s father, Nasooh Majali, who was Jordan’s Information Minister and Ambassador to Syria, was present at the hearing and told Al Hayat newspaper, in October, “Relations between the two countries have adversely affected this case.”

But Al Manai told Arabian Business that he saw no link between politics or the relationship between the two countries and his client’s case. “Our defense is always built on facts and reality as it is on the ground. Its not our role to speculate and I wouldn’t like to tie politics with this case, as I see no link between the two.”

When asked if his clients case was receiving any support from the Jordanian government, Al Manai said, “We are lawyers and we pursue this profession in total freedom without any interference from any government. Without a doubt the defendant is Jordanian and Jordan wants to safeguard his rights. At the end of the day he is a Jordanian citizen and its Jordan’s right to give this case the attention it deserves, as Qatar would, its normal.”

Al Manai described his client’s morale as being “Accepting and that he had received his right to a proper defense and due process.”

Firas Al Majali’s wife Rula Abu Rous, who works for the controversial Qatari satellite channel Al Jazeera, did not attend the hearing today. Ahmed Al Najdawi, a Jordanian lawyer who is also defending Al Majali was present at the trial.

In August, the Jordanian government closed the Jordanian offices of the Qatari-based Al Jazeera channel and revoked the accreditation of the channel’s staff in the kingdom, in response to the show, Al Itijah Al Muakis, or ‘Opposite Directions’. The closure was ordered under the Jordanian Press and Publications Law of 1998 and regulations governing the work of correspondents from the foreign media dating back to 1999. The move followed remarks made on the show on August 6, by an Arab American professor from the University of California, Asad Abu Khalil.

On August 8, Jordanian foreign minister Marwan Muasher summoned the Qatari Ambassador to Jordan, Sheikh Abdul Rahman Ben Jassem Al Thani, to express “the government’s strong anger and annoyance” regarding the show. Jordan’s ambassador to Qatar was recalled for consultations, and returned in December to Qatar.

On October 25 the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the world’s largest organisation, which represents 500,000 journalists said it has appealed to the Government of Qatar to lift the death sentence imposed on Majali whom it said was “caught in the crossfire of a media war” between Jordan and Qatar.

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