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Failed suicide bomber denies causing Jordan blasts

Written by: Staff

AMMAN, May 15 (Reuters) A failed female suicide bomber pleaded not guilty in a Jordanian court today to charges of trying to kill 60 people in three hotel bombings.

Jordan's top security court turned down a request by Sajida al-Rishawi's lawyer to be examined mentally, saying no evidence had been shown that the Iraqi woman had a troubled past or had behaved abnormally since the trial began on April 24.

A veiled Rishawi, 35, wearing a blue prison gown and with her ankles tied, pleaded not guilty to two counts of conspiracy to carry out terrorist acts causing death and destruction, and the illegal possession of weapons and explosives.

Lawyer Hussein Masri told the three-man military tribunal that Rishawi had signs of mental illness, judging from her behaviour during two long meetings he had with her last week.

''I found that she was not fully aware of her actions nor the serious nature of the charges against her,'' Masri said.

Masri was appointed by the court at the trial's second session on May 8 when the bar association refused a request by the military tribunal to chose a lawyer from their ranks.

Rishawi, who is from the town of Ramadi in Iraq's western province of Anbar, faces a death sentence if found guilty.

Prosecutors say Rishawi tried to blow herself up with her suicide bomber husband, who killed himself and others in their attack on the Radisson hotel during a wedding reception on November 9, 2005.

Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the bombings that killed 60 people but defended them in an internet audiotape, saying the hotels were home to US and Israeli spies.

Eight other people who have been charged in connection with the attacks, including Zarqawi, are still at large.

Zarqawi, a Jordanian, has already been sentenced to death in absentia for involvement in plots to destabilise Jordan.

Rishawi made a televised confession a few days after the blasts, appearing in a headscarf and a long black coat as she described her attempts to detonate an explosives-laden belt.

Masri told Reuters that Rishawi told him her confessions were extracted under torture, but he had no proof of this.

The lawyer said Rishawi, who told the court she had married her husband Ali Hussein al-Shimeri a day before coming to Jordan, only knew about the bomb plot when her husband forced her to wear the suicide belt hours before the attack.

She was arrested shortly afterwards when she tried to hide with the family of her sister's husband, a Jordanian killed in clashes with US forces in Iraq.


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