Court to retry Muslim militants convicted of terrorism

Monday, April 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ An appeals court has called for a group of Muslim militants to stand retrial, saying the military court that convicted them ``erroneously applied the law,'' according to documents released Monday.

The April 10 decision overrules a 1999 military court verdict sentencing eight of the militants to life in jail for a series of bombings that it said were aimed at destabilizing Jordan's security and stability. No one was injured in the blasts.

A ninth militant was sentenced to 15 years in prison and four defendants were acquitted.

The appeals court ruled the sentences contradicted a law that specifies what kind of property must be damaged to merit such harsh punishment.

``The acts of terrorism and sabotage carried out by the criminals did not result in damaging property, funds, institutions and installations ... but damaged movable property, mainly cars,'' read the 45-page verdict made available to The Associated Press.

It said cars ``are not considered public property ... or part of relevant means stipulated in the law ... therefore, the military court has erroneously applied the law.''

In its April 27, 1999 ruling, the military court said the nine men _ three of whom were sentenced in absentia _ were affiliated to a previously unknown group, called al-Islah wal-Tahadi, or Reform and Challenge.

The prosecution had accused the militants of trying to overthrow the government of the late King Hussein through a series of car bombings the previous year.

The eight sentenced to life were: Abdul-Nasser Khamayseh, Samer Amer, Raed Kafafi, Ahmad Abdullah, Samir Shabayeh, Majed Hajibi, Omar Abu Omar and Issa Sarhi. Shabayeh, Hajibi and Sarhi are at large.

Omar Abu Omar, who has political asylum in Britain and lives there, was also sentenced in September to 15 years in jail for conspiracy to carry out terrorist attacks against American and Israeli tourists in Jordan last year.

An accomplice in the Reform and Challenge case, Khalid Arouri, received 15 years with hard labor because he was not directly involved in planting the bombs. Arouri, a police sergeant, was dismissed from his job in 1998 after it was discovered that he had helped the group plant the bombs at the cars parked outside the offices of the highway patrol.

The acquitted were: Mahmoud Istetyeh, Ramzi Saadeh, Mohammed Blore and Abdul-Nasser Abu Shanab.