Jordan sentences female would-be bomber to death

September 21, 2006 11:19
2 minute read.

Seven people were sentenced to death Thursday for triple hotel bombings that killed 60 people in Jordan's capital last November. The only one in custody was a 35-year-old Iraqi woman, Sajida al-Rishawi, who confessed on Jordanian television shortly after the blasts that she intended to carry out a suicide attack on one of the Western hotels. Six others, including another Iraqi woman, were sentenced in absentia and remain at large. They are believed to be hiding in Iraq. The late al-Qaida in Iraq leader, Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had claimed responsibility for the attacks. He was also tried as a fugitive, but the Jordanian military court dismissed his case after his death in a US airstrike north of Baghdad in June. The guilty verdicts can be appealed. The court said al-Rishawi and the other six were found guilty "beyond doubt" in Jordan's deadliest terror attack in recent history. Some 60 civilians and three Iraqi suicide bombers died in the coordinated blasts. During the 10-minute hearing Thursday, al-Rishawi sat on the floor of a small fenced-in dock, her head resting to the side on her shoulder. Wearing a headscarf and a blue prison dress, she appeared emotionless as she watched the three-judge panel. Two armed Jordanian policewomen stood outside the dock and asked her to rise when the chief judge read the sentence. Tight security measures were enforced outside the court building, where visitors underwent extensive searches. In a televised confession after her arrest, al-Rishawi said her explosives belt failed to detonate. She later retracted those statements, saying through her lawyer that she had no intention of killing herself and insisted that she did not even try explode her belt. During the five-month trial, al-Rishawi's lawyer, Hussein al-Masri, argued that her confession had been extracted under duress. Al-Rishawi pleaded innocent to charges of conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack that led to the deaths of innocent people. But an explosives expert testified that the trigger mechanism on al-Rishawi's belt had jammed. A prosecutor had summed up his case by saying that those responsible for the Amman hotel bombings "must be uprooted from society." The blasts shook this relatively stable country in the volatile Middle East because of the high number of civilian casualties - mainly Jordanian Muslim women and children. Al-Masri had argued that his client's husband forced her to go with him to one of the Amman hotels. The husband, Ali al-Shamari, was one of the three Iraqi bombers who died in the blasts. Al-Rishawi told the court she married al-Shamari just days before the blasts, and that her marriage had not been consummated.

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