AMMAN, Jordan – A military court convicted 10 suspected militants Wednesday in two separate terrorism cases that included conspiracies to kill Americans in Jordan.
In one case, the court found four alleged militants guilty of conspiracy to kill Americans who worked at an Iraqi police training center east of Amman.
In the second case, the same court convicted six other suspected militants, including two fugitives in absentia, of plotting terror attacks against Americans at five-star hotels and against liquor stores and nightclubs in the Jordanian capital.
Defense lawyers in both cases said they planned to appeal.
In the first case, the court sentenced the four — all Jordanians who were arrested a year ago — to jail terms ranging between 10 and 20 years with hard labor. The four had pleaded innocent at the opening of their trial nine months ago.
Military judges said the prosecution's allegations were "substantiated with strong evidence, and the court is convinced beyond doubt that the four were involved in a terror conspiracy on Jordanian soil."
The court initially sentenced three of the four defendants to death by hanging but quickly commuted their sentences to 20 years with hard labor, saying it wanted to give the men another chance to repent.
The fourth defendant, Ibadah al-Hiyari, 24, received the lesser sentence of 10 years in jail with hard labor because it was not proven that he possessed any weapons.
Upon hearing the verdict, the four men — all wearing dark blue prison uniforms and sporting long beards — shouted the battle cry of "Allahu akbar!" — "God is great!"
"God won't ignore tyrants, you criminals and enemies of Allah," shouted the group's alleged mastermind, Ma'ath Breizat, 19.
The prosecution indictment claimed that Breizat, al-Hiyari and the other two defendants monitored a desert road to the U.S.-run training facility. They saw that the Americans routinely were driven to the facility in unguarded cars and used the same route every day, according to the indictment.
Once they formed a plan, the four began training with automatic rifles and, at one point, they followed the Americans to a house near the U.S. Embassy, the indictment said. It also said that al-Hiyari tried to persuade Breizat to join the insurgency in Iraq.
In the second case, the court sentenced the six, mainly young Palestinians aged between 23 and 26, to jail terms ranging between 10 and 15 years with hard labor.
The group's plot was foiled when four members of the group were arrested nearly a year ago in Jordan, according to their indictment. It said the two fugitives, also Palestinian youths, are believed to be in Lebanon.
The fugitives were given the harsher penalty of 15 years in jail with hard labor.
The indictment said prime suspect Loa'i Hashem al-Sharif, a native of the West Bank town of Hebron, was elected leader of the previously unknown "Khattab Brigades" group. Al-Sharif was responsible for recruiting fighters and raising funds to buy machine guns that were to be used in the attacks.
The targets included unidentified American nationals at five-star hotels in Amman and the Red Sea resort city of Aqaba, and cell members received weapons training in a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon from the two fugitives, the indictment said.
The cell allegedly began surveying its targets in Jordan early last year. Initially, the alleged militants sought to spray cyanide on the door knobs of nightclubs to poison their customers but could not buy the deadly chemical without a license.
They later switched plans to attack people frequenting unidentified liquor shops and nightclubs using automatic machine-guns, according to the indictment.
Jordan, a close U.S. ally, has arrested scores of Islamic militants for plotting attacks in this moderate Arab kingdom. It has also sentenced numerous militants to death in absentia, including the Jordanian-born Al Qaeda in Iraq leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq in June.