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Zarqawi handed second death penalty in Jordan
First posted 06:37am (Mla time) Dec 19, 2005
By Sahar Aloul
Agence France-Presse

AMMAN - Jordan's state security court on Sunday handed Al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi his second death penalty in absentia, for planning to blow up a border crossing between Jordan and Iraq.

His two accomplices in the December 2004 plot were also given the death sentence.

The prosecutor had demanded the death penalty against Jordanian-born Zarqawi and the two other suspects accused of plotting a suicide attack on the Karameh crossing with Iraq.

One of the co-accused Dirar Abu Audeh was, like Zarqawi, tried in absentia but the other, Saudi national Sahed Fuheiqi, has been in police custody and now faces hanging. His lawyer said he would appeal against the ruling.

"My killing would be a martyrdom, my incarceration a retreat and my exile is tourism," said Fuheiqi, who remained calm as the sentence was read out.

The sentence was agreed unanimously by the three judges who ruled the accused were guilty of illegally carrying explosives.

According to the indictment, Fuheiqi had been driving a car packed with explosives to the border with the aim of carrying out a suicide attack. The car fell into a ditch and did not blow up owing to a fault with the detonator.

Zarqawi, the most wanted man in Iraq where he has a US bounty of 25 million dollars on his head, has previously been sentenced to death in his absence by the state security court for the October 2002 murder of a US diplomat in Amman.

Released from jail in 1999 as part of a general royal pardon by King Abdullah II, Zarqawi claimed the triple suicide bomb attacks on luxury Amman hotels on November 9 that killed 60 people.

Zarqawi, in an audiotape attributed to him and posted on the Internet in November, warned of more attacks in the kingdom if the government did not meet his demands.

The voice on the tape demanded the departure of British and US troops, the closure of the US and Israeli embassies and an end to training in Jordan for Iraq's fledgling security forces.

Zarqawi also sought to defend the hotel bombings, saying his group had information the hotels were being used by US intelligence agents.

The death sentences come just days after the US-based Human Rights Watch urged Jordan to abolish the death penalty, saying new evidence in a murder case after a suspect was hanged showed the danger of relying on confessions.

The rights group said Bilal Musa was executed at Swaqa Prison, south of Amman, in December 2000 for the murder of Najih Khayyat, despite his claim to have been tortured into confessing.

"The police, prosecutors and judges appear to have had little interest in establishing the truth, and every interest in rushing through murder verdicts based on confessions likely extracted under torture," HRW Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said.

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