Jordan Prosecutor Seeks Death for 7 Charged With Attacking U.S. Warships

Jordan's military prosecutor demanded the death penalty Thursday for seven alleged militants, including three fugitives, charged with firing rockets at two U.S. warships docked in the Red Sea port of Aqaba last August.

"I appeal to the court to hand down its strongest punishment, which is execution, against each of the seven defendants," said the prosecutor, summing up his argument in the trial that started four months ago.

The prosecutor — whose name was withheld under orders from the military State Security Court — also asked for unspecified harsh penalties against five other men charged with lesser crimes in the same case.

CountryWatch: Jordan

The defense called for the acquittal of the 12 defendants for "lack of evidence."

The hearing was adjourned until an unspecified date for the verdict.

The 12 defendants are charged with the Aug. 19 attack on the two warships, the most serious terror assault on the U.S. Navy since the 2000 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 American servicemen.

Three rockets fired from a warehouse in Aqaba's suburbs missed the USS Ashland, but one killed a Jordanian soldier when it landed near the warship and another hit a road in neighboring Eilat, Israel.

A militant cell of Al Qaeda in Iraq, led by slain Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Of the 12 defendants, six are in Jordanian police custody and pleaded innocent in April. The remaining six are at large and believed to be hiding in Iraq. They are being tried in abstentia.

In previous hearings, prime suspect Mohammed Hassan Abdullah al-Sihly, a Syrian car dealer living in Jordan, testified he was not aware of the terror plot hatched in neighboring Iraq allegedly by his two fugitive sons — who are implicated in the same case.

But prosecution witnesses have directly implicated the 53-year-old man, saying they saw him surveying the area around Aqaba's port, where the U.S. warships were docked, at least twice in the week before the attack.