updated 6/16/2004 8:00:33 AM ET 2004-06-16T12:00:33

Jordan’s military court convicted 15 men — all but one of whom remain at-large — on Wednesday for a terror conspiracy targeting unspecified American and Israeli interests in Jordan as well as Jordanian intelligence officials.

The court said it found Ahmad Mahmoud Saleh al-Riyati, 34, to be the mastermind of the 15-member terror cell linked to al-Qaida and Ansar al-Islam militant groups. Al-Riyati, the only suspect in custody, was sentenced to 15 years in jail, but the sentence was quickly commuted to 7½ years.

Eight of the other 14 — 12 of them Jordanians and two Iraqis — received sentences of 15 years in jail with hard labor.

The court formally dropped charges against the remaining six, saying they had died. It did not say how, but military prosecution sources have said they were killed battling American forces in Iraq.

The guilty verdicts can be appealed.

The indictment said al-Qaida and Ansar al-Islam had recruited al-Riyati and his cell to conduct terror attacks against U.S. and Israeli interests in Jordan as well as to attack Western tourists and assassinate top Jordanian intelligence officers. Details of the plots were not revealed.

Al-Riyati’s sentence was commuted to give him another chance in life, the court said.

U.S. forces arrested al-Riyati in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq immediately after the U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein’s regime and extradited him to Jordan in April last year.

The military court also on Wednesday upheld a conviction, but not the sentence, handed down to al-Riyati in absentia for his role in a foiled millennium terror conspiracy in Jordan linked to al-Qaida.

He earlier had been sentenced to 15 years in jail, but Jordanian law requires anyone convicted in absentia to be retried on the same charge once captured.

At the October outset of the trial, al-Riyati pleaded innocent and denied involvement in both terror conspiracies.

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