AMMAN, Jordan – The Palestinian-born mentor of slain al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi pleaded innocent at the opening of his trial on terrorism charges in Jordan on Monday.
Isam Mohammed Taher al-Barqawi and three other Jordanian-Palestinians, including a fugitive who is being tried in absentia, are charged with recruiting militants in Jordan to join a "terrorist organization" identified as the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The four are also charged with attempting to harm Jordan's relations with Afghanistan.
If convicted, they face 15 years in jail.
The prosecution indictment said the Jordanian cell sought to help the Taliban in its "terror attacks" against U.S. and other troops in Afghanistan.
It said the four raised funds from unspecified donors in Jordan and tried to go to Afghanistan to join the "terrorist" Taliban, but that their plan failed because al-Barqawi, being the prime suspect, was arrested last September.
The hearing was adjourned until Jan. 30 to hear the prosecution witnesses.
Al-Barqawi, known as Sheik Abu-Mohammed al-Maqdisi, shared a cell block between 1995 and 1999 with al-Zarqawi, who led al-Qaida in Iraq before he was killed by a U.S. airstrike in 2006.
Al-Maqdisi was released in 2008 after three years in jail for encouraging attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.