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Man arrested for 'cursing God'

Nov. 18, 2011 6:58 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 20, 2011 9:41 A.M.)
QALQILIYA (Ma'an) -- Palestinian police arrested a man on Thursday for "cursing God" while arguing with his father in Qalqiliya.

Police responded to a call reporting a fight between a father and son in the northern West Bank town, officials said. A police report said the father called police to break up the fight after his son "cursed God."

Police took the man, who was not identified, into custody in accordance with Article 273 of the Jordanian Penal Code, which criminalizes insulting the religious feelings of other persons or their religious faith, officials said.

The penalty could result in a jail term of between 1-3 years, according to the code.

Musaab Yahiya, deputy police chief in Qalqiliya, said police would target anyone who "curses God or any prophets or religions." He pointed to the sensitivity of religious issues and the "implications" of abusing religious sanctity.

The case is unusual but not without precedent. A year earlier in the same city, the PA arrested a 25-year-old university student, Waleed Hasayin, after he was accused of authoring blog posts critical of Islam.

The blogger's postings, many of them altered verses from the Koran as well as caricatures of the prophet Muhammad that had been published in Danish newspapers, had infuriated local Muslims.

In December 2010, Human Rights Watch called on the PA to release the blogger.

"The Palestinian Authority's claim that Husseini offended Muslims is no excuse for arbitrarily detaining him," said Joe Stork, deputy director of HRW's Middle East chapter.

Continuing to hold him without charge violates Palestinian law, under which a criminal suspect should be charged or released within 72 hours, the rights group said at the time.
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