The trial in absentia of Iraq's most wanted fugitive, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and 12 other terror suspects has opened in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi - the acknowledged mastermind behind scores of terror attacks in Iraq - is being tried in absentia, along with three of the 13 defendants.

Prosecutors accuse al-Zarqawi and most of the others of plotting to launch suicide chemical attacks inside Jordan. Shortly after the trial opened Wednesday, nine defendants present in the courtroom brought proceedings to a standstill when they refused to answer routine questions from military judges.

The court adjourned the case until December 22. If convicted, 12 of the defendants, including al-Zarqawi, could be sentenced to death. A 13th defendant has been charged with the lesser crime of aiding two of the fugitives.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.