AMMAN, Dec. 4 (AFP) - A Jordanian Islamic appeals court on Monday ordered the retrial of poet Mussa Hawamdeh on charges of apostasy after he was cleared of any wrongdoing earlier this year by a first instance court.

"The Islamic appeals court of Amman informed me today Monday that it refuses to ratify the verdict of acquittal issued in July by the Islamic first instance court," Hawamdeh told AFP.

He said the new trial reopened Monday in the first instance court of Amman.

That same court in July acquitted Hawamdeh of charges of apostasy -- turning away from religion -- and defaming the prophets in a poem about the Prophet Joseph published in an anthology entitled "My Trees Are Taller".

Hawamdeh wrote in the poem that the wife of the Pharaoh of Egypt did not seduce Joseph as said in the Koran, Islam's holy book, triggering the wrath of conservative Muslims in Jordan who have called for his death.

Jordan's Islamic appeals court, in a statement obtained by AFP, said the acquittal did not take into account the opinion of experts to determine if Hawamdeh's poem effectively distorts the words of the Koran.

Hawamdeh, who describes himself as a devout Muslim, has staunchly defended himself against any wrongdoing.

Hawamdeh, whose book has since been banned by the government, defended himself in court as a believing Muslim and said his poem was intended to underline his "rejection of the idea that an Arab woman could be a source of seduction for the Jewish descendants of Joseph."

"I was not trying to distort the version of the Koran in the poem but, as a poet, I have the right to draw on historic symbols to criticize a current situation," he said in July.

If found guilty of apostasy Hawamdeh could be forced by the court to divorce his wife.

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