Friday, May 06, 2005

Terror Suspect in Stormy Court Hearing

The prime suspect in an al Qaida-linked plot to strike Jordan with chemical weapons threw his shoes at military judges during a stormy hearing in Amman and told them terror mastermind Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi will “chop off” their heads.

Al-Zarqawi – a Jordanian who is al Qaida’s point man in Iraq – and three other fugitives are being tried in absentia in Jordan’s military court along with nine men in custody, including prime suspect Azmi al-Jayousi. All 13 are accused in what Jordanian officials say was al Qaida’s first chemical attack.

Al-Jayousi disrupted Wednesday’s proceedings in a rage over the killing of four alleged co-conspirators in a gunbattle with police a year ago, detailed by a forensic doctor in court.

The doctor testified the four men died of severe wounds caused by bullets penetrating different vital organs, like the brain, lungs, neck or abdomen.

An angry al-Jayousi took off his slippers and hurled it at the chief judge, Col. Fawaz Buqour. “Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi will chop off your heads and stuff it up your mouths, you God’s enemies,” he then growled, pointing his finger at the three-man tribunal.

Court officials said that al-Jayousi’s action was tantamount to contempt of the court, which is punishable by three years in jail. But instead of handing down punishment, Buqour adjourned for a 10-minute break only to return to a more turbulent defendants.

“The blood of our brothers will not go wasted,” shouted another defendant, Ahmad Samir, at the judges as they reconvened.

“Await death, Obeidat, for you are God’s enemy,” he roared, addressing the military prosecutor, Lt. Col. Mahmoud Obeidat.

Some of the other defendants recited versus from the Koran, Islam’s holy book, or shouted insults at the judges. All nine suspects – sporting beards and standing in the dock – later turned their backs to the bench and knelt in prayer.

Buqour ordered al-Jayousi and two other defendants out of the courtroom in a bid to restore order. But when he failed, he adjourned the hearing to an unspecified date.

Last year, al-Jayousi said in televised confessions his group had plotted a chemical attack in Jordan under instructions from al-Zarqawi, who is blamed for scores of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings of foreigners in neighbouring Iraq.

In an audiotape posted on the internet in May 2004, a man who identified himself as al-Zarqawi acknowledged his group was behind the plot in Jordan but he denied it involved chemical weapons.

The Jordanian plot was uncovered and foiled on April 21, 2004, when the four alleged cell members were killed in a shoot-out with police.

Al-Zarqawi and the other men on trial face charges that include conspiring to commit terrorist attacks, possessing and manufacturing explosive material and affiliation with a banned group identified as Kata’eb al-Tawhid, Arabic for the Battalions of Monotheism – a previously unknown cell said to be linked to al Qaida.

If convicted, 12 of the men – including al-Zarqawi – could be sentenced to death. The 13th man was charged with the lesser crime of assisting two fugitives.
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