JORDAN: Amnesty International calls for a new chance for justice

The nine men, charged with carrying out a series of politically-motivated bombings in March and April 1998. They were tried two years ago before military judges in the State Security Court, whose procedures fall short of international standards for fair trial. Three of the defendants were sentenced in absentia and four of those originally arrested were acquitted. The defendants were found guilty partly on the basis of confessions reportedly extracted under torture. /p>

'Six of these men have already spent three years in prison for a crime they may not have committed', stated Amnesty International. 'We are calling for a fair trial before a civil court to prevent further miscarriages of justice.'

Amnesty International has repeatedly raised its concerns over this case with the Jordanian Government. In a letter to Prime Minister 'Ali Abu Ragheb in September 2000, the organization wrote that 'confessions allegedly made under duress and the absence of a prompt and thorough investigation of the defendants' allegations of torture, renders their confessions unsafe and their convictions a miscarriage of justice. '

The decision of the Court of Cassation was not based on the torture allegations, but on the excessive harshness of the sentences as the 'acts of terrorism and sabotage carried out by the criminals did not result in damaging property, fund institutions and installations [as specified in the law] ... but damaged movable property, mainly cars.'

The Court of Cassation had previously overturned a number of high profile political cases based on confessions extracted following torture.

Background

The defendants --young men said to belong to the previously unknown Islamic group-- Jama'at al-Islah wa'al- Tahaddi (Reform and Challenge Group)-- were arrested between the 4 and 7 of May 1998. After arrest they were held without access to the outside world for two months in the detention centre of the General Intelligence Department in Wadi Sir. They alleged that during this time they were tortured by beatings, sleep deprivation and by being suspended from the ceiling. Their families stated that marks of torture were still visible on their bodies when they were at last allowed to visit the detainees in July 1998. The medical examinations they requested were only carried out in October 1998, five months after the initial arrest.

Those in detention sentenced to life imprisonment are 'Abd al-Naser Shehadeh al-Khamayseh; Samer Mahmud 'Amer; Ra'ed 'Abd al-Karim al-Kafafi; Ahmad Husayn 'Abdallah and Samir Sa'id Shabayeh. Khaled Tawfiq al-'Aruri, a former policeman, was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment.

View latest press releases