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Cablegate: Jordanian Court Ponders Verdict in Foley

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 AMMAN 001870

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PTER IS JO
SUBJECT: JORDANIAN COURT PONDERS VERDICT IN FOLEY
ASSASSINATION CASE; BEGINS TRIAL OF SUSPECTED ISRAELI SPY

REF: AMMAN 0610

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) Jordan's State Security Court proceeded with a
number of high-profile cases during the last two weeks. The
attorneys for accused assassins of U.S. diplomat Lawrence
Foley concluded their argument on February 24, and the judge
adjourned indefinitely to consider his verdict. The Court in
late February also opened the trial of a Jordanian government
worker accused of spying for Israel. Meanwhile, Jordan's
State Prosecutor on March 2 called for the death penalty of
13 men, including local extremist Muhammad Ahmad al-Shalabi
(aka Abu Sayyaf), who are accused of planning attacks against
U.S. and Jordanian targets. On March 7, three men, including
the nephew of Jordanian fugitive extremist Abu Mus'ab
al-Zarqawi, retracted previous confessions in a plot to
attack U.S. and Israeli tourists in Jordan. Finally, on
March 9, defense attorneys for a suspected al-Qa'ida/Ansar
al-Islam member who is accused of plotting subversive acts
called its last witness before the court. End Summary.

----------------------------
DEFENSE RESTS IN FOLEY TRIAL
----------------------------

2. (U) The attorneys for suspected assassins in the October
2002 slaying of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley concluded their
case on February 24 with a call for the court to dismiss the
charges against their clients. The prosecution is seeking
the death penalty for the defendants, chief among them
suspected triggerman Salem Bin Suweid, a Libyan national. In
their concluding argument, the defense contested the court's
jurisdiction, arguing: "Our clients should have been tried at
the Criminal Court and not at a military tribunal." They
repeated their charge that their clients' earlier confessions
were extracted under duress during their detention. Judge
Fawaz Bqour adjourned the session indefinitely to consider
his verdict in the case.

---------------------------------
ACCUSED ISRAELI SPY GOES ON TRIAL
---------------------------------

3. (U) The State Security Court on February 26 began the
closed trial of a Jordanian man accused of spying for Israel.
The 42-year-old defendant, Khalid Mohammad, pleaded not
guilty to charges that he provided Israel with information
about the Jordanian military and other installations,
according to press reports. The prosecution alleges that
Israeli intelligence recruited Mohammad in 1998 during a
joint Jordanian-Israeli project when he was employed by the
Royal Geographical Institute in Jordan. Jordanian
authorities arrested him in October 2003, and claim they
found military maps in his possession. If convicted of
espionage charges, Mohammad could be sentenced to life in
prison. The trial is set to resume on March 14.

--------------------------------------------- -
PROSECUTOR CALLS FOR DEATH IN ABU SAYYAF TRIAL
--------------------------------------------- -

4. (U) Jordan's State Prosecutor Mahmoud 'Ubaydat on March
2 called for the death penalty as he wrapped up his case
against 13 individuals, including three fugitive Saudis, who
are accused of plotting attacks against U.S. and Jordanian
targets, including the U.S. Embassy in Amman. Jordanian
extremist Muhammad Ahmad al-Shalabi (aka Abu Sayyaf) is the
most prominent suspect in the case. Jordanian authorities
arrested Abu Sayyaf in September 2003, who also was wanted
for his involvement in deadly clashes in his southern
hometown with Jordanian forces in November 2002.

5. (U) All but one defendant in the case continue to
maintain their innocence. Zuhair Chdeifat has told
authorities that one of the Saudi fugitive suspects was to
have taken them to Afghanistan but instead put them in
contact with a Jordanian man, identified only as Abu 'Ubayda.
"Abu 'Ubayda asked us to transport weapons from Baghdad to
Amman, which I did along with three of the accused," he said
in October, according to press reports. He told authorities
they successfully smuggled 20 bombs and rocket-propelled
grenades into Jordan "believing they were for defending the
Kingdom." However, "Abu 'Ubayda convinced us to go after
American targets in Jordan as part of our own jihad," he
said. The case is adjourned until March 23 when the defense
will begin presenting its case.

--------------------------------------------- ------------
ZARQAWI'S NEPHEW, ALLEGED ACCOMPLICES RETRACT CONFESSIONS
--------------------------------------------- ------------

6. (U) Three men, including the nephew of fugitive
Jordanian extremist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, who are accused of
plotting to attack American and Israeli tourists in Jordan
retracted their confessions during a court appearance on
March 7. In what is becoming a common refrain among
suspected terrorists incarcerated in Jordan, the defense
claimed their confessions were extracted under duress during
detention. The case will resume on March 14 with the
defense's presentation of its witnesses.

-----------------------------------
AL-RIYATI'S DEFENSE CALLS WITNESSES
-----------------------------------

7. (U) The Court on March 9 heard the last defense witness
for Ahmad al-Riyati, suspected of planning attacks against
U.S. and Jordanian targets in Jordan. A government physician
told the court that he examined al-Riyati three times since
his mid-2003 arrest. Initially, he noticed that the suspect
suffered from lack of sleep and food and failed to recognize
people, adding that his weak physical and mental condition
"could be attributed to being imprisoned or being subjected
to psychological pressure." However, by the third exam, the
doctor said al-Riyati's condition had improved. Al-Riyati,
who has retracted an earlier confession claiming it was
extracted by torture in detention, is suspected of having
links to al-Qai'da and Ansar al-Islam. Fourteen others
accused in the case remain at large. Judge Bqour adjourned
the case until March 17.

Visit Embassy Amman's classified web site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/amman or access the site
through the State Department's SIPRNET home page.
HALE

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