A Jordanian American on trial in Amman for suspected membership in Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network on Tuesday accused Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of responsibility for the September 11 attacks.
"Sharon carried out the attacks," on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon outside Washington, Raed Hijazi told reporters in Amman's state security court.
"And the proof is that 4,000 Jews who work at the World Trade Center did not go to work that day," said Hijazi, in reference to Arab reports circulating on the Internet and in newspapers about the New York attack.
Hijazi, a 32-year-old of Palestinian origin, was sentenced to death in absentia in September 2000 during the trial of 28 Islamists accused of planning bomb attacks on Christian, Jewish and US targets in Jordan.
Eight members of the group were condemned to death, although the sentence of two of them was later commuted to life imprisonment, while 14 were handed various prison terms and six acquitted.
But the court acquitted all the defendants of membership in Al-Qaeda (The Base) network of bin Laden, the prime suspect in the September 11 attacks on the United States.
In line with Jordanian law, Hijazi is now facing a new trial -- on the same charges -- after his arrest in Syria in November and his extradition to the kingdom. The new trial opened in May.
Hijazi who appeared briefly in court Tuesday, denied any links with bin Laden.
"The Jordanian government is trying to pin this accusation on me in order to get money from the United States by pretending they are fighting terrorism," Hijazi said.
But before policemen dragged him away from journalists, Hijazi was able to lift his trousers to show bruises on his right leg.
His lawyers meanwhile reiterated charges that their client had been "tortured" in prison and urged the court to summon doctors to testify.
One of the lawyers, Tayssir Diab, also told reporters that since Hijazi's arrest, neither the authorities nor the United States had "provided any fresh proof of his links to bin Laden".
The New York Times newspaper reported on September 18 that US federal investigators were examining a possible link between Hijazi and the suicide hijackers who crashed planes into the World Trade Center.
According to the report, the investigators have connected Hijazi, a former cab driver from Boston in the United States, and two suspected hijackers, Ahmad Ibrahim al-Ghamdi and Satam as-Suqami.
"The link between the hijackers and the former cab driver Hijazi is among the first specific pieces of evidence that connect the hijackers to important associates of bin Laden," the newspaper said.
The next hearing in the Amman trial has been set for October 16 -- AMMAN (AFP)
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