AMMAN (AFP) – Three Jordanian Islamist MPs have pleaded not guilty to charges of incitement pressed after they offered condolences to the family of slain Al-Qaeda frontman Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
“We did not back the terrorist actions of Zarqawi,” lawmaker Mohammed Abu Fares told the court as it wrapped up the case and prepared to consider its verdict, judical sources said Tuesday.
On Monday, the military prosecutor urged the military tribunal to hand down the “maximum penalty” — three years in prison — for fuelling national discord and inciting sectarianism.
Abu Fares and fellow Islamic Action Front MPs Jaafar Horani and Ali Abu Sukkar were arrested on June 12, days after visiting Zarqawi’s hometown north of Amman to pay condolences to his family.
They were charged after complaints by the families of some of the 60 civilians killed in hotel bombings in Amman in November, for which Zarqawi claimed responsibility.
Zarqawi was killed in a US air strike in Iraq on June 7.
The controversial trial opened July 24 amid strong protests from international human rights watchdogs who accused the Jordanian authorities of violating the MPs’ right to freedom of expression.
A fourth MP, Ibrahim Mashukhi, was also arrested in June but released in July after the authorities deemed he had not committed any crime.