Cablegate: Jordan Security Court: Terrorism Trials Update

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



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. 04 AMMAN 10304
B. AMMAN 4487
C. 04 AMMAN 9243


1. (U) Two new cases entered the State Security Court in
July. Jordanian extremist Issam al-Barqawi (aka Abu Mohammad
al-Maqdisi) was released on June 26 and re-arrested a week
later by Jordanian authorities on charges of instigating
subversive acts. Eight men with links to the Palestinian
Islamic Jihad were indicted for plotting to conduct attacks
in Jordan and Israel. Meanwhile, several ongoing terrorism
trials moved ahead. Azmi Jayusi, the alleged mastermind of a
Zarqawi plot disrupted in April 2004 to bomb the U.S.
Embassy, Jordanian intelligence headquarters and Prime
Ministry, admitted in a taped confession to having met
Zarqawi in Iraq to plan the attacks. The lawyers for 15
local extremists on trial for plotting against foreign
tourists and security personnel called for their acquittal,
alleging the accused had been tortured. Four others accused
in a similar plot were convicted, but their sentences
immediately reduced, "to give them a second chance in life."
Muammar Jaghbir, already sentenced in the assassination of
USAID official Laurence Foley, pleaded not guilty to
involvement in the bombing of the Jordanian embassy in
Baghdad in 2002. A judicial source told press that convicted
Zarqawi fundraiser Bilal Hiyari will be re-tried, and three
men were sentenced in a plot to attack Israelis at the
al-Hassan Industrial Estate in northern Jordan. END SUMMARY.


2. (U) The state prosecutor formally charged Issam
al-Barqawi (aka Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi) on July 18 with
plotting subversive acts in Jordan, according to press
reports. Deputy PM and GOJ spokesperson Marwan Muasher told
reporters that Maqdisi was re-arrested because "he contacted
terrorist parties," which he declined to identify. A senior
judicial source told the press that "State prosecutor Mahmoud
Obeidat charged Maqdisi with plotting subversive acts on
Monday (July 18) and ordered his detention for 14 days
pending further investigations." Jordanian officials
released Maqdisi from custody on June 26, six months after
the Security Court acquitted him of plotting subversive acts
and possessing explosives as part of an alleged cell in
Mafraq, due to "lack of evidence" (ref A). However, the GOJ
arrested him again on July 5. Islamist weekly al-Sabil
reported that Jordanian authorities arrested Maqdisi at the
request of "another Arab country," which allegedly accuses
him of involvement in issuing fatwas sanctioning attacks on
its territories. The paper quoted Maqdisi's family members
who complained that the authorities did not allow Maqdisi to
have an attorney present during his interrogation after his
re-arrest. Considered a former spiritual mentor of Zarqawi,
Maqdisi appeared to have distanced himself from certain of
Zarqawi's actions in Iraq. He gave a lengthy interview to
al-Jazeera upon his release in which he again repudiated some
of Zarqawi's activities, such as attacks on churches and
members of the Shi'a community.


3. (U) The State Security Court in June indicted eight men
from the northern town of Irbid on charges that they planned
to carry out operations against foreign tourists in Jordan.
The men, who authorities claim are affiliated with the
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), also planned to infiltrate
Israel to conduct attacks there, according to the prosecutor.
During their initial court appearance, the defendants
pleaded not guilty and claimed their confessions had been
extracted under torture. Relatives of the defendants at a
later court session testified that they saw signs of torture
on their bodies. The Irbid men's targets allegedly included
foreigners who frequented a restaurant in Qanater village
near the northern town of Hosn, the Joud Hotel in Irbid, and
tourist buses in several areas of Jordan. Some of the
defendants traveled to Syria and Lebanon in October 2004 to
attend courses on manufacturing explosives and using weapons,
according to the charge sheet, but the authorities arrested
the men before they carried out any attacks. The prosecutor
alleged that the defendants embraced takfiri ideology, and in
November 2004 talked about the need to kill foreign tourists
visiting the country.

4. (U) The defendants in custody include: Ali Mamduh Fathi
al-Umari; Muhammad Sabri Muhammad Qasim al-Jundi; Yusef
Abdallah Yusef al-Suwayti; Mahmud Muhammad Yahyah Abu Abid;
Imad Sulayman Ahmad Muhammad Ubaydat; Hawari Madayan Hatim
al-Darsiyah; and Abdel Rahim Ibrahim al-Haj Yusef Shalabiyah.
Abdul Muti Abdel Aziz Abu Mu'liq, who is believed to be
hiding in Syria, is being tried in absentia. Abu Mu'liq was
sentenced to death in Jordan in 1997 for assassinating a
Jordanian diplomat in Beirut in 1995, according to press
reports. The judge adjourned the trial until August 2.

5. (U) Azmi Jayusi, the reputed leader of a Zarqawi cell
that plotted to attack the U.S. Embassy, GID headquarters and
Prime Ministry in April 2004 admitted in a videotaped
confession aired during a court session in July that he met
with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in preparation for the attacks (ref
B). "Zarqawi told me there would be military operations in
Jordan and we needed to prepare for them... he gave me around
JD 50,000, weapons, explosive devices and instructions to
launch attacks. Our first target was State Prosecutor
Mahmoud Obeidat," said Jayusi. A second target was a GID
officer who had blue eyes and a white Mercedes, he added.
Jayusi said he infiltrated Jordan from Iraq in February 2002
hidden in a fuel tanker, and later met up with the rest of
the defendants. He re-enacted how he bought chemical
substances, electronic equipment and lab devices from shops
in the downtown area of Amman for his plans. The tape also
showed him manufacturing explosives and transporting empty
jerry cans into trucks with two of the other defendants.

6. (U) During the screening of the video, the defendants
claimed the prosecution refused their requests that defense
attorneys be present during the interrogation, a claim denied
by Obeidat. Obeidat said he informed the defendants of their
right to an attorney, but that they "turned down his offer."
Obeidat then rested his case, and the judge agreed to a
request by defense attorneys for more time to meet with their
clients and prepare their statements.


7. (U) The defense team for 15 local extremists charged
with plotting against foreigners and intelligence officers in
Jordan, dubbed the Tahawi cell for its alleged leader, asked
the court to acquit their clients on all charges, claiming
authorities tortured the prisoners (ref C). "Our clients
should be declared innocent because their testimonies were
extracted under torture and duress and because the state
prosecution did not read them their indictment sheet when
they were summoned for questioning," one of their lawyers,
Zuhair Abul Ragheb, told the court. "The prosecutor
questioned my clients after traces of torture disappeared
from their bodies to obtain confessions," he charged during
his closing argument, claiming that the security forces used
"special chemical substances" to hide marks of torture.

8. (U) Abul Ragheb also expressed anger over statements in
state prosecutor Obeidat's closing remarks weeks earlier in
which Obeidat accused the attorney of being part of the
Tahawi group "because he was defending the mujahidin." Abdul
Ragheb (who also is an Islamic Action Front member of
Parliament from Amman) retorted: "This is a strange statement
by the prosecution against a lawyer. It would be a great
honor for me to be part of the mujahidin in Palestine or


9. (U) The State Security Court on July 14 convicted and
sentenced four local extremists accused of plotting against
foreign tourists and security personnel to three years in
jail (ref B). As is frequently done with first time
offenders, the court commuted the sentences of three of the
defendants to 18 months "to give the defendants a second
chance in life." The sentence of the fourth defendant, Ahmad
Mohammad, was reduced to two years. The defense team said it
would ask the defendants "if they wish to appeal the verdict,
or just spend the remaining time that is left for them in
prison." The verdict is still subject to appeal by the
prosecution within 30 days.


10. (U) An alleged Zarqawi associate, Muammar Ahmad
Jaghbir, pleaded not guilty during a court appearance in
early July to involvement in the 2003 bombing of the
Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad (ref B). Jaghbir's lawyer
complained to the court that his client had been detained for
six months for interrogation by the security forces: "My
client's long detention period is in violation of his rights
and the law and I hope the court will take this into
consideration," Fathi Daradkeh stated. The judge said he
would consider the defense's claims when he issued his
verdict. Jaghbir and Zarqawi were sentenced to death for the
assassination of USAID official Laurence Foley in October


11. (U) A convicted Zarqawi fundraiser will be re-tried in
the State Security Court, a judicial source told the press
(ref C). Bilal Hiyari was sentenced in October 2004 to six
months in jail for collecting funds for Zarqawi, but was
acquitted of charges that he conspired to carry out terrorist
activities in Jordan "for lack of evidence." The Court of
Cassation overturned the Security Court's initial decision,
sending it back to lower court. "The State Security Court
verdict fell short of adequate justifications and causes,"
according to the source.

--------------------------------------------- ------
--------------------------------------------- ------

12. (U) Prosecution witnesses continued to testify in the
case of a Saudi national, Fahd Fuheiki, who is accused of
attempting to carry out a suicide attack on the
Iraqi-Jordanian Karameh/Trebil border crossing in December
2004 (ref B). Two army officers testified that they had
examined the car filled with explosives that Fuheiki failed
to detonate. Zarqawi and Thirar Abu Odeh are being tried in
absentia on the same charges.


13. (U) The State Security Court on July 13 sentenced three
men to prison terms ranging from one to three years for
planning to attack Israelis visiting Al Hassan Industrial
Estate in Irbid. The Court sentenced two men to three years
in prison each, but immediately commuted the sentence to one
year "to give them a second chance in life." A third, who
was tried in absentia, received a three-year sentence. Court
documents said the three men, residents of Azmi Mufti refugee
camp in Irbid, formed a jihad group and planned to buy a
machine gun to kill Israelis. One of the men worked at the
industrial area and allegedly monitored the movements of
Israelis who came there.


14. (U) The lawyers for four men accused of planning to
attack tourists and liquor stores in Jordan asked the court
to dismiss the charges against their clients, claiming they
had been subjected to torture and duress at the hands of the
security forces in order to elicit their confessions. (NOTE:
The defendants had already retracted their confessions during
an earlier court session. END NOTE.) They also said their
clients were denied their right to have an attorney present
during their interrogation. The lawyers added that since one
of the four had confessed to illegally possessing a machine
gun, the weapons charges against the other three should be
dropped. In his closing argument, the defense attorney
stated that the defendants did not plot any "terrorist acts,"
and "if they hated Americans they should not be imprisoned
for it.... If every person who hates Americans is put on
trial then you would not only have to try the Jordanian
population, but all the oppressed nations that hate

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

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