Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Terror suspect claims Osama bin Laden and others will soon set up Muslim caliphate state

By JAMAL HALABY Associated Press Writer

(AP) - AMMAN, Jordan-An alleged militant on trial for a terror conspiracy targeting the U.S. and Israeli embassies claimed Monday that terror masterminds Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would soon set up a Muslim caliphate state.

Abed al-Tahawi's made the statement in brief remarks to reporters before the military court convened to hear the prosecution sum up its case in his trial.

"Although they accuse them of being terrorists, the heroes Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Zarqawi will come back to the scene soon to set up an Islamic caliphate state," he said.

Al-Tahawi, 50, and 15 other men - including one at large who being tried in absentia - are charged with conspiring to carry out terrorist attacks and possessing automatic rifles. If convicted on both counts, the defendants could face the death penalty.

Saudi-born bin Laden has long advocated the creation of a caliphate, where Islam would be the source of the law and the state ruled by a religious leader, known as the caliph - a title taken by the successors of the prophet Muhammad.

Al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, is al-Qaida's top man in Iraq. He is believed to be directing anti-U.S. attacks and kidnappings in Iraq, and his group has beheaded several hostages. He has been sentenced to death in Jordan for the 2002 killing of a U.S. aid worker in the kingdom.

At the outset of the trial in March, the 15 men in police custody refused to speak when asked to enter their pleas - a sign which the court interpreted as plea of not guilty. The defendants later argued that their guilty confessions were extracted by force by the military prosecution, and demanded chief prosecutor Lt. Col. Mahmoud Obeidat take the witness stand.

Court president Col. Fawaz Buqour rejected the demand during Monday's hearing, but did not give a reason why.

The hearing was adjourned until next Monday when the defense begins.

Obeidat's indictment claims al-Tahawi pursued the ideology of "takfiri" - a policy of killing anybody considered to be an infidel. He recruited his accomplices while preaching in mosques in Irbid, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the capital.

The indictment claims the group planned to target a hotel in Irbid favored by Israeli tourists, the Amman home of the director of an annual Jordanian cultural event which hosts western artists and Americans performing at the festival.

The festival usually takes place in July at the Roman ruin city of Jerash, 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Amman.

It did not say how or when the accused planned to carry out the attacks. They were apprehended in August and September before the attacks were launched
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