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Jordan Sentences Convicted Terrorist to Death Despite Protest - 2002-02-11


A Jordanian-American has been sentenced to death in Amman for plotting terrorist attacks against tourists in Jordan.

U.S.-born Jordanian Raed Hijazi will be put to death by hanging. That was the decision of Jordan's military court in finding him guilty of plotting to carry out terrorist attacks in Jordan against American and Israeli tourists during millennium celebrations.

Hijazi, who was born in California, was convicted of possessing arms and explosives and conspiring to detonate bombs at sites frequented by U.S. and Israeli tourists during the New Year's 2000 celebrations in Jordan.

Hijazi maintained he was innocent throughout the trial, but Jordanian authorities said he had previously confessed to planning terrorist attacks using deadly gas. Hijazi told the court his confession was extracted through torture. He said he had no links to Osama bin Laden, and that he didn't plot terrorist attacks because to do so would be against the teachings of Islam.

Following the verdict, Hijazi shouted at the judge, "Why are you sentencing me to death? You are ruling against your people. You are worse than [Israeli Prime Minister] Sharon." Hijazi has claimed his arrest was part of an effort by Jordan to win increased assistance from the United States. Washington's military and economic aid to Jordan is estimated at $225 million a year.

Hijazi had been sentenced to death in absentia in a September 2000 trial of 28 suspects accused of planning terrorist attacks in Jordan. A month later he was arrested in Syria and extradited to Jordan. Under Jordanian law a person found guilty in absentia is allowed a retrial. His new trial began last May. His attorneys say they plan to appeal Monday's verdict.

The prosecution had maintained Hijazi belonged to al-Qaida, the terrorist group run by Osama bin Laden, but he was acquitted of belonging to the group.

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