Jordan sentences 8 to death for plotting chemical attacks
February 15, 2006
Feb. 15, 2006, 4:06PM
AMMAN, Jordan — A court today sentenced the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and eight other men to death for plotting chemical attacks against sites in Jordan, including the U.S. Embassy.
Al-Zarqawi and three others were sentenced to death in absentia. But the plot's alleged mastermind, Azmi al-Jayousi, and four co-defendants were in the courtroom when the judge handed down the sentence for the 2004 plot, which security officials foiled before it could be carried out.
It was the third death penalty that Jordanian courts have handed down to al-Zarqawi, who runs the most notorious insurgent group in Iraq. His previous death sentences were for the 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley in Amman, and for a failed suicide attack on the Jordanian-Iraqi border in 2004.
On hearing the verdict, the five condemned men who were in the dock shouted out their support for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and denounced the judges as pro-Israeli tyrants.
"The Jews are your masters!" yelled the men.
The three judges picked up their papers and walked out, leaving the defendants shouting.
"Bin Laden's organization is rising and we will be back!" they yelled.
They also turned on one of the acquitted, Syrian Mohammed Salmeh Shaaban, and accused him of being an informer. "Your blood will be shed," the convicted shouted at him.
The court also sentenced two other defendants to prison terms of between one and three years, and acquitted another two defendants.
The 13 men — Jordanians, Syrians and Palestinians — were charged with conspiring to attack sites in Jordan by setting off a cloud of toxic chemicals that would have killed thousands of people, according to prosecution estimates.
The prosecution told the court that al-Zarqawi sent more than $118,000 to buy two vehicles which the plotters were to use in the attack. Suicide bombers were to drive the vehicles, loaded with explosives and chemicals, onto the grounds of the General Intelligence Department in Amman and detonate them.
The plot also targeted the U.S. Embassy, the prime minister's office, and various intelligence and military court officials.
The indictment said that when investigators conducted an experiment with small amounts of the chemicals found with the defendants, they found it produced "a strong explosion and a poison cloud that spread over an area of 500 square yards."
From the geographical data that mastermind al-Jayousi, a Jordanian, had collected, it appeared he aimed to kill thousands of people in the chemical attack, the indictment said.
Eight of the defendants were accused of belonging to a previously unknown group, "Kata'eb al-Tawhid" or Battalions of Monotheism, which security officials say is headed by al-Zarqawi and linked to al-Qaida.
Monotheism, or "tawhid" in Arabic, is a central doctrine of Islam. But radical groups like al-Zarqawi's have interpreted it to mean that anyone who does not rule by Islamic law is an apostate.
The defendants were also charged with conspiring to commit acts of terrorism and possession and manufacture of explosives.