AMMAN, Jordan – Veiled and chained at the ankles, a 35-year-old Iraqi woman went on trial Monday on charges of trying to carry out a suicide attack on a Jordanian hotel.
Sixty-three people died when suicide bombers struck three hotels in Amman last Nov. 9.
Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi, 35, is charged in the attacks carried out by her husband and two other suicide bombers. Al-Rishawi's explosives belt failed to detonate, she was arrested after fleeing the scene and later made a televised confession.
On Monday, she stood alone in the State Security Court dock — the only one of eight defendants in custody. Chief among the defendants being tried in absentia is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the alleged mastermind of the attacks. His group claimed responsibility for the bombings.
Al-Rishawi, who wore a brown headscarf and dark blue prison dress, told the court she was single because her marriage had not been consummated, and appealed for legal assistance.
"I don't have a lawyer. I have God to defend me. I have no money now to secure a lawyer," she told the three judges.
The judges adjourned the hearing after five minutes to allow a lawyer to be appointed to defend her.
The hearing was conducted under tight security in a courtroom inside an Amman prison. There were no relatives of the victims in the public gallery, only journalists and police officers.
In the attacks, three Iraqi suicide bombers — including the man that al-Rishawi married only days earlier — blew themselves up in three hotels, including one where a wedding was under way. The bombers killed themselves and 60 other people.
Al-Zarqawi's group has vowed more strikes against Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally that signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and has been the target of several al-Qaida terror plots because of its moderate stance and vocal criticism of extremist Muslim groups.
The State Security Court already has sentenced the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi to death in absentia three times for his involvement in terror plots against Jordan. One of the attacks was the assassination of U.S. aid official Laurence Foley, who was gunned down in Amman in October 2002.