A prominent and outspoken Jordanian writer on Sunday was shot dead in front of the courthouse where he had been on trial for sharing a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam.

There were no immediate details on the identity or motive of the gunman. But a witness described the shooter, who was immediately arrested, as wearing a long grey robe and long beard characteristic of conservative Muslims. The shooting was the latest in a string of deadly security lapses in Jordan.

Witnesses and police said Nahed Hattar, 56, was preparing to enter the courthouse for a hearing when the lone gunman shot him at close range.

“He was standing at a short distance of about one meter (yard) in front of Nahed on the stairs of the Supreme Court,” the witness told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, fearing repercussions. The official Petra News Agency said Hattar was shot three times.

Government spokesman Mohammad Momani condemned the killing as a “heinous crime.”

“The government will strike with an iron hand all those who exploit this crime to broadcast speeches of hatred to our community,” he told the Petra agency.

But supporters of Hattar said they held the government responsible for the shooting, accusing Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki of creating a hostile atmosphere that encouraged violence against the writer.

“The prime minister was the first one who incited against Nahed when he ordered his arrest and put him on trial for sharing the cartoon, and that ignited the public against him and led to his killing,” said Saad Hattar, a cousin of the writer.

Hattar has long been a controversial figure in Jordan. Years ago, he claimed that the late King Hussein had arrested and tortured him many times for his critical writings and vowed not to mourn the king, who died in 1999.

Nahed Hattar, 56, was shot three times in the head as he arrived for a hearing .Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar was fatally shot Sunday morning outside the court where he was due to stand trial for sharing a cartoon that mocked Islam.

Hattar, 56, was shot in the head three times as he arrived for a hearing over the cartoon. Earlier this year, Hattar posted a cartoon on Facebook that he claimed mocked “ISIS terrorists and their concept of heaven,” according to the New York Times. The Christian writer was arrested in August and released on bail in early September.

The shooter, whose identity and motive have not been released, was immediately arrested, the Associated Press reported.
Saad Hattar, a cousin, told the AP relatives and friends accompanying the writer to trial apprehended the killer.

Hattar’s family called on the Jordanian government to hold accountable those who had incited against the writer.

“Many fanatics wrote on social media calling for his killing and lying, and the government did nothing against them,” they said.

Saad Hattar said the family held Jordan prime minister Hani al-Mulki responsible for the killing.