By Noura Wazani and Agencies
28 defendants, linked to militant dissident Osama Bin Laden, and charged with plotting to carry out terrorist attacks in Jordan, pleaded not guilty in a court hearing in Amman Thursday.
Jawad Yunis, a lawyer for one of the defendants told Albawaba.com that the suspects pleaded "not guilty" when asked by the military judge if they were guilty or not after the sheet of charges was read out in the court.
However, Yunis said the defense team asked for "time to meet with our clients and discuss the case with them," because they were not allowed to meet earlier.
The next court hearing will take place on May 7th, said the lawyer.
The case, which was first known as "Afghan 2", due to similarity with the 1994 "Arab Afghan Case", is now dubbed as "The Base Organization."
The suspects have been charged with plotting to attack a Western-managed hotel in Amman as well as archeological sites where tourists were expected to visit during the millennial year.
According to the court sheet, the group was formed in 1995 and that its members had received training in Afghanistan, Syria and Lebanon.
If found guilty, the defendants, including 13 tried in absentia, will face stiff prison terms or death penalty.
One of the fugitives, Omar Abu Omar also known as Abu Qutada is considered by the Jordanian authorities as the key link to Bin Laden and the mastermind of the network in Jordan. He was granted political asylum in Britian.
A source at the State Security Court told Albawaba.com on customary condition of anonymity, "that it is the court's president who decides if Abu Qutada should be extradited or not."
Abu Qutada was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment in April 1999 by Jordan's Security Court in the case dubbed "Islah Wattahaddi" (Reform and Challenge). He was charged with plotting to carry out terrorist attacks on hotels and police stations in Amman.
AFP said the suspects, who were brought to court in two police vans, chanted in unison: "Allah-o-Akbar" (God is great) as they drove into the court.
Only journalists were allowed inside the courtroom for the public trial but photographers were kept outside the premises.
AFP added that only a few relatives of the suspects huddled outside the court building and one of them, the father of Issam Barqawi, told reporters his son was "100 percent innocent" and had been arrested while having dinner at home – Albawaba.com.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )