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Death sentence sought in Jordanian terror case

A Jordanian military prosecutor demanded the death penalty Sunday against an Iraqi woman charged in last year’s suicide bombings at three Amman hotels. Sajida al-Rishawi maintained her innocence.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A military prosecutor demanded the death penalty Sunday against an Iraqi woman charged in last year’s suicide bombings at three Amman hotels.

Sajida al-Rishawi maintained her innocence, telling the court, “I’m not guilty, I had no desire to blow myself up.” Wearing a black headscarf and long prison dress, her ankles shackled, al-Rishawi looked relaxed and showed no emotion.

Earlier in the trial, which started April 24, an expert disputed al-Rishawi’s claim that she didn’t pull the trigger on her explosives belt, testifying instead that the trigger jammed.

Summing up his case, the prosecutor, whose name was withheld under a court order, said those responsible for the Nov. 9 hotel bombings “must be uprooted from society.

“The prosecution and Jordanian society at large appeal to your honor to get rid of such elements and give them the sentence they deserve — the death penalty,” he said.

He said al-Rishawi and her group “intentionally planned to kill innocent people by targeting civilian institutions filled with people, to instill fear and spread sedition.”

Al-Rishawi is the only defendant in custody. Seven others — believed to be hiding in Iraq — are being tried in absentia, including the Jordanian-born former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June.

Confession on television
Shortly after the bombings, al-Rishawi confessed on Jordanian television that she intended to carry out a suicide attack on an Amman hotel along with three other Iraqi bombers, including her husband.

At the time, she said her explosives belt failed to detonate. She later retracted her confession, telling her lawyer two months ago that she never intended to kill herself and insisting that she did not even try to pull the trigger.

Defense attorney Hussein al-Masri said his client’s husband forced her to go with him to one of the Amman hotels. Ali al-Shamari and two others detonated their explosive belts in the near-simultaneous attacks, killing 60 people — mainly Muslim Jordanian women and children.

On Sunday, al-Rishawi told the court that she learned of the terror plan on the day of the attacks. She said her husband strapped an explosives belt around her and took her to a Palestinian-Jordanian wedding at the Swedish-owned Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman.

“I stood near the door, heard a boom and then left when scared people fled the hotel,” she said.

She said she did not stop her husband from strapping a bomb around her because “I was afraid he would leave me alone” in a foreign country.

Torture in custody alleged
Al-Rishawi said previously that she felt desperate because her husband had her passport and money. She said they got married just days before the attacks, but that the union was never consummated. She said her husband told her he was taking her to Jordan to start a new life.

At Sunday’s hearing, al-Rishawi argued that her “confession to the interrogators is wrong because it was extracted under torture.”

When the prosecutor asked her to be specific about what she meant by torture, she replied “shouting.” Pressed further, she said, “I was beaten.”

At the start of the trial, Al-Rishawi’s lawyer argued that her confession was extracted under duress and requested a psychological evaluation for his client. The court denied the request.

The trial adjourned until Wednesday, when the defense will present its case.