Jordanian court sentences five men to hang for attack on teenager

Sentences follow public outcry after teenager mutilated in gangland feud

Men line up outside the Jordan state security court in Amman, Jordan on Sun. June 18, 2017. The fathers of two of the three American soldiers who were shot dead at a Jordanian military base are attending the latest hearing in the trial of the Jordanian serviceman accused of killing them. Brian McEnroe and James Moriarty traveled to Amman to attend Sunday's hearing in a state security court. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil)
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Five men were sentenced to death by hanging for attacking and mutilating a teenager in October in the impoverished city of Zarqa on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan's state television said.

The attack caused national outrage and exposed the spread of crime, gangs and clan violence in Jordan's urban areas.

A sixth defendant, who is a fugitive, was sentenced to death in his absence. Four defendants were sentenced to prison for periods ranging from one to 15 years, while seven others were acquitted.

A security court in Amman presided over by a military officer sentenced the men on Wednesday.

Under Jordanian law, an appeal process begins automatically within a month in front of an appellant court comprised of civilian judges.

The 17 defendants were charged with attempted murder and terrorism. All pleaded not guilty.

Hussein Al Masri, a Jordanian lawyer, said that because the case was referred to the security court, the defendants were not sentenced according to the general criminal code.

"Under the security court's rules the terrorism crimes they were charged with can carry the death sentence," Mr Al Masri told The National.

The teenager's name is Saleh. He was 16 at the time of the attack.

Witnesses told the court that the attackers left the bleeding victim in a remote area in Zarqa. He was taken to hospital in the city – his hands had been cut off and one of his eyes was missing.

The authorities accused the group of hacking off Saleh's hands with an axe and gouging his eye after abducting him from a bus.

The motive is thought to have been retaliation for the murder of the lead suspect’s uncle in August.

Saleh’s father was in jail for involvement in the murder when his son was attacked, but has since been released.

In footage broadcast on state television, Saleh said the sentence was just.

"I thank the Jordanian people for standing with me," he said, sitting on a sofa and wearing a teal-coloured t-shirt.

Urban crime wave 

Crime in Jordan has worsened as the economic situation deteriorated and poverty increased over the past decade.

Increasingly, criminals are becoming more organised and forming violent gangs.

Authorities arrested hundreds of suspected members of gangs and extortion rings in the first few weeks after the attack on Saleh to assuage public anger at the case.

A large proportion of those in these criminal gangs are former convicts operating rackets and smuggling rings from Zarqa and other slums inside and outside Amman.