Published January 13, 2015
Seven people were sentenced to death Thursday for triple hotel bombings that killed 60 people in Jordan's capital last November, the country's deadliest terror attack in recent memory.
The only defendant in custody was a 35-year-old Iraqi woman, Sajida al-Rishawi, who confessed on Jordanian television shortly after the blasts that she intended to carry out a suicide attack on one of the Western hotels.
Six others, including another Iraqi woman, were sentenced in absentia and remain at large. They are believed to be hiding in Iraq.
The late Al Qaeda in Iraq leader, Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had claimed responsibility for the attacks. He also was tried as a fugitive, but the Jordanian military court dismissed his case after his death in a U.S. airstrike north of Baghdad in June.
The court said al-Rishawi and the other six were found guilty "beyond doubt." The guilty verdicts can be appealed.
After the hearing, al-Rishawi's lawyer, Hussein al-Masri, said she was not surprised by her death sentence.
"She told me that she expected either to be sentenced to death, or to be sent back to Iraq," he said, adding that he planned to file an appeal soon.
During the 10-minute hearing Thursday, al-Rishawi sat on the floor of a small fenced-in dock, her head resting on her shoulder. Wearing a headscarf and a blue prison dress, she appeared emotionless as she watched the three-judge panel.
Two armed Jordanian policewomen stood outside the dock and asked al-Rishawi to rise when the chief judge read the sentence.
In a televised confession after her arrest, al-Rishawi said her explosives belt failed to detonate. She later retracted those statements, saying through her lawyer that she had no intention of killing herself and insisted that she did not even try to explode her belt.
She pleaded innocent to charges of conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack that led to the deaths of innocent people.
During the five-month trial, al-Rishawi's lawyer argued that her confession had been extracted under duress.
But an explosives expert testified that the trigger mechanism on al-Rishawi's belt had jammed.
Al-Masri had argued that his client's husband forced her to go with him to one of the Amman hotels. The husband, Ali al-Shamari, was one of the three Iraqi bombers who died in the blasts. Al-Rishawi told the court she married al-Shamari just days before the blasts, and that her marriage had not been consummated.
The blasts shook this relatively stable country in the volatile Middle East because of the high number of civilian casualties — mainly Jordanian Muslim women and children.