Jordan convicts eight Hezbollah suspects on terror charges
AMMAN - Jordan’s military court sentenced eight men to prison for conspiring to commit terror attacks allegedly hatched by the pro-Iranian Lebanese Hezbollah against US, Israeli and other targets in Jordan using machine guns and home-made explosives.
It is the first major Hezbollah-linked terror plot made public involving Jordanian targets. Earlier cases involving Hezbollah were much smaller in scale and focused on cross-border attacks on Israel.
Hezbollah is opposed to Jordan’s moderate policy, including its security collaboration with the United States and its 1994 peace treaty with Israel. Hezbollah is staunchly anti- US and advocates Israel’s annihilation. It has been engaged in Israeli wars from its base in southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah had no immediate comment on the trial and verdict in Jordan.
The conspiracy case is second of its kind involving an Iranian proxy in less than a month. In mid-July, Jordan revealed that police arrested an Iraqi-Norwegian linked to Iran who allegedly plotted attacks in Jordan.
Hezbollah’s alleged plot, in planning since 2006, envisaged armed attacks on Starbucks coffee outlets in Amman on the assumption that the cafés were Israeli-owned, according to court documents made available to The Arab Weekly.
Other targets included US troops helping Jordan fend off possible assaults from neighbouring war-stricken Syria, the Israeli embassy and Jordanian diplomatic missions abroad, the documents showed.
“You had evil intentions and plotted terrorism against Jordan, its people, interests and guests”, the presiding judge told the bearded convicts, all sitting in the dock as he handed down the verdict and sentencing on July 29th.
Cell leader Amer Jamil, who was charged with communicating with Hezbollah in person and via email, recruiting the others and raising funds to buy weapons, explosives and sophisticated spying gear such as camera sunglasses and wire-tapping gadgets during travel to China, was sentenced to ten years in prison. Other cell members were handed prison terms of two or three years.
A Syrian fugitive at large, identified as Mohammed Ibrahim Loai Nawaya and the cell’s explosives and bomb-making expert, was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in jail.
The remaining seven men are Jordanians of Palestinian origin. They were arrested in May, weeks before Iran concluded crucial negotiations with Western powers on its nuclear programme and rehabilitating Tehran into the international community.
Court documents show that Jordanian intelligence had been watching the men since the outset, starting with Jamil’s surveillance of a desert road in eastern Jordan used by US troops commuting to a military compound as well as Starbucks and the Israeli embassy in Amman.
The prosecutors’ indictment outlined careful planning by cell members, who had worn wigs as they surveyed potential targets and received specific instructions from Hezbollah through email.
Some of the email messages had Hezbollah asking if “explosives can be smuggled into the Palestinian territories and whether there are any safe passages from Jordan into Palestine to smuggle weapons”, according to the five-page indictment obtained by The Arab Weekly from court sources on condition of anonymity.