Terror Suspects Silent in Court

Fifteen alleged militants refused to speak Monday when a military court asked them to plead to numerous terror charges, including plotting to attack the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Amman (search).

The court interpreted their silence as a plea of not guilty and adjourned the trial to March 14. A 16th person accused is being tried in absentia on the same charges.

The charge sheet identified the chief defendant as Abed al-Tahawi (search), 50, and said he pursued the ideology of "takfiri" (search) — a policy of killing anybody considered to be an infidel. The charge sheet said al-Tahawi recruited his accomplices while preaching in mosques in Irbid (search), 50 miles north of the capital.

The defendants planned to attack the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Amman, and a hotel favored by Israeli tourists in Irbid, the charge sheet said. They also planned to attack the home of the director of an annual cultural festival and American performers at the festival, according to the charges.

Details released Monday did not say how or when they planned the attacks.

The alleged militants were detained in August and September before they could carry out their plans. It was not disclosed how they were arrested.

In a separate trial in the same military court, a defendant pleaded not guilty Monday to planting a bomb that killed two passers-by in 2002.

Mustafa Siyam was convicted in absentia in 2003 and condemned to death for setting a bomb under the car of the wife of a senior Jordanian intelligence officer outside his home in Amman in February 2002. The intelligence officer left his house minutes before the explosion, which killed two workers on the pavement.

Siyam was later captured in Iraq and extradited to Jordan. Under Jordanian law, people convicted in absentia are granted a retrial if they are later arrested.

Siyam said Monday that the confession he made while in detention was extracted under duress.