AMMAN, Jordan – Terror suspects on trial for allegedly plotting to blow up Jordan’s intelligence headquarters shouted insults at their military judges Sunday and threatened to “exterminate” the moderate Muslim nation.
Thirteen men have been charged with conspiring to commit terrorism in connection with the foiled April 2004 plot against the headquarters of the Jordanian General Intelligence Department in the capital, Amman.
Nine of the suspects are in custody, while the other three are being tried in absentia, including the fugitive al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The defendants could face the death penalty if convicted.
One of the defendants, Hassan al-Smeik, shouted during Sunday’s hearing that Jordan was bowing to pressure from the United States – its longtime ally – by prosecuting the case against them.
“Terrorism is a badge of honor on our chests until Judgment Day,” al-Smeik yelled from the dock as the other defendants hurled insults at the judges. “In the name of God, we’re pursuing the path of Jihad until we uproot you, exterminate your state until the rule of (King Abdullah II) vanishes.”
The trial, which began nearly a year ago, was later adjourned until an unspecified date.
Military prosecutors claim that the prime suspect, Azmi al-Jayousi, received training in explosives manufacture and mixing chemicals in Afghanistan, where he met the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi in 1999.
The plot to blow up the intelligence department was uncovered when the nine were arrested in police sweeps in Jordan last April. The government says if the attack had been carried out, it would have sent a cloud of toxic chemicals across Amman, killing thousands.
In a televised confession last year, al-Jayousi said his group had plotted the chemical attack under al-Zarqawi’s instructions. But in subsequent court hearings, he said his confession had been coerced.
In an audiotape posted on the Internet in May 2004, a man who identified himself as al-Zarqawi acknowledged that his group had been plotting an attack in Jordan but denied it involved chemicals.
Al-Qaida in Iraq has claimed responsibility for the Nov. 9 triple hotel blasts that killed 63 people, including the three Iraqi suicide bombers. Al-Zarqawi has vowed more attacks on Jordan.