Jordan: Suspected gang members stand trial on terrorism charges in teen mutilation case

Attack on Saleh, 16, left him without hands and with only one eye

Pictured: The street within a market in Zarqa in which the victim ran a stall before his father was sent to prison for killing a man and the family was forced to leave the area. 
Photographer: Charlie Faulkner
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A special court in Jordan has charged 17 people with terrorism offences for mutilating a teenager in a case that sparked public outcry.

A trial of the 17 men at the State Security Court began on Wednesday over a vicious attack on a 16-year old boy called Saleh in the impoverished city of Zarqa in October.

The group is accused of hacking off Saleh's hands with an axe and gouging out one of his eyes after abducting him on 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 jail for involvement in the murder when his son was attacked but has since been released.

Among nine charges levelled against the suspects is “the felony of committing a terrorist act that endangers safety and security of society”.

Zarqa, Jordan’s third largest city, is practically an extension of the capital Amman.

But a retreating Jordanian economy, hit further by the coronavirus pandemic, has bred an atmosphere of lawlessness and the proliferation of cartels, criminal gangs and drugs in Zarqa and other impoverished urban centres.

Since the attack, authorities have sought to crack down on gangs and extortion rings, arresting hundreds of people, many of whom are former convicts.

One of the 17 suspects is on the run and being tried in his absence.

The group is also being charged with premeditated murder, forming a criminal gang, resisting security forces and carrying unlicensed weapons.

All 16 suspects present at the trial denied the charges.

The court will have its second session on Sunday, in line with a plan to hold two sessions a week and hear from 26 witnesses in the case.

Military judge Mowafaq Al Masaeed is presiding over the three-member court, alongside another military judge and a civilian.

The state is providing three of the suspects with a lawyer because they cannot afford one, the official news agency said.

Queen Rania called the attack an “unspeakable atrocity”.