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Bin Laden operative faces trial in Jordan

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Suspect in terrorism born in Central ValleyAmman, Jordan — A California-born alleged operative of Osama bin Laden was formally charged with terrorist activities yesterday in a trial that opened amid intense security and dissolved in pandemonium.
The case against Raed Hijazi, 33, who once attended California State University at Sacramento, is the first to contain detailed evidence regarding the scope of al Qaeda, bin Laden’s international network, since the Sept. 11 assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Hijazi is on trial for participating in a foiled attempt, allegedly engineered by al Qaeda members, to blow up a major Jordanian hotel and other tourist monuments on Jan. 1, 2000.
He was originally arrested in Syria and extradited to Jordan last December, accused of planning bomb attacks on Christian, Jewish and U.S. targets as part of a foiled “millennium” plot by terrorists aimed at disrupting New Year celebrations in Jordan.
Hijazi publicly denies any involvement, although press reports earlier this year suggested he had been cooperating with investigators on the case. In September 2000, a Jordanian court had sentenced Hijazi to death in absentia for the alleged crimes.
In the court proceedings yesterday, Hijazi’s defense attorneys said a key witness in the trial was Les Hickman, U.S. consul general in Amman, who U.S. Embassy sources said had met earlier this year with Hijazi in his jail cell.
When Hickman failed to appear, the proceedings were adjourned. Hijazi, struggling wildly and shouting anti-Israeli slogans, was chained and physically dragged from the courtroom by nine armed police officers.
Before the trial opened, Hijazi briefly spoke with reporters from inside a spare black-iron cage used for defendants in high-security cases. He denied any involvement in the attempted bombings, and showed the press gallery deep scars on his legs — the results, he contended, of torture at the hands of the Jordanian military. Jordanian officials have denied previous charges by Hijazi that he was being tortured.
Wearing the white skull cap of a devout Muslim, Hijazi spoke Arabic throughout the conversation, and nervously stroked his chest-length untrimmed beard. He accused magistrates of “only bringing up al Qaeda in this case as a way to get money from the Americans in their fight against terrorism.”
Hijazi was born in the Sacramento area and grew up mostly in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. He took business courses at Cal State Sacramento in the late 1980s and, according to the New York Times, joined a group in Sacramento called the Islamic Assistance Organization.
Jordanian investigators, cited by the Times, claimed the organization had helped to facilitate Hijazi’s move to Islamic training camps in Afghanistan, where, according to Western and Middle East press reports, he was trained by bin Laden operatives in the use of bombs and explosives. According to Jordanian officials, Hijazi and the other plotters had planned to blow up the 400-room Radisson Hotel in downtown Amman, Christian holy sites in Jordan and two border crossings into Israel.
“If you want to understand the modern face of global Islamic terrorism and how it functions, look at Jordan,” Richard A. Clarke, a White House counterterrorism official, told the New York Times last January. “The Jordan plot is the template.”
Yesterday, Jordanian army troops ringed the National Security Court in suburban Amman for hours before proceedings began. Outside the courthouse, chief defense attorney Taisir Diab claimed that Hijazi had been given a list of the millennium bomb indictments after agents of the Syrian secret service handed him over to Jordanian authorities. “They said, ‘Sign this, or we’ll kill you, and nobody will even know you’ve died,’ ” Diab said.
A U.S. Embassy source would not comment on rumors that Hijazi disclosed vital information on al Qaeda and bin Laden in the meeting with Hickman. Press reports earlier this year indicated Hijazi had described his involvement with bin Laden to investigators. However, it is standard practice for U.S. diplomats abroad to offer assistance to U.S. citizens in legal difficulties, the source noted, adding that no official request for Hickman’s court testimony had been presented to the embassy.

Amman, Jordan — A California-born alleged operative of Osama bin Laden was formally charged with terrorist activities yesterday in a trial that opened amid intense security and dissolved in pandemonium.The case against Raed Hijazi, 33, who once attended California State University at Sacramento, is the first to contain detailed evidence regarding the scope of al Qaeda, bin Laden’s international network, since the Sept. 11 assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.Hijazi is on trial for participating in a foiled attempt, allegedly engineered by al Qaeda members, to blow up a major Jordanian hotel and other tourist monuments on Jan. 1, 2000.He was originally arrested in Syria and extradited to Jordan last December, accused of planning bomb attacks on Christian, Jewish and U.S. targets as part of a foiled “millennium” plot by terrorists aimed at disrupting New Year celebrations in Jordan.Hijazi publicly denies any involvement, although press reports earlier this year suggested he had been cooperating with investigators on the case. In September 2000, a Jordanian court had sentenced Hijazi to death in absentia for the alleged crimes.In the court proceedings yesterday, Hijazi’s defense attorneys said a key witness in the trial was Les Hickman, U.S. consul general in Amman, who U.S. Embassy sources said had met earlier this year with Hijazi in his jail cell.When Hickman failed to appear, the proceedings were adjourned. Hijazi, struggling wildly and shouting anti-Israeli slogans, was chained and physically dragged from the courtroom by nine armed police officers.Before the trial opened, Hijazi briefly spoke with reporters from inside a spare black-iron cage used for defendants in high-security cases. He denied any involvement in the attempted bombings, and showed the press gallery deep scars on his legs — the results, he contended, of torture at the hands of the Jordanian military. Jordanian officials have denied previous charges by Hijazi that he was being tortured.Wearing the white skull cap of a devout Muslim, Hijazi spoke Arabic throughout the conversation, and nervously stroked his chest-length untrimmed beard. He accused magistrates of “only bringing up al Qaeda in this case as a way to get money from the Americans in their fight against terrorism.”Hijazi was born in the Sacramento area and grew up mostly in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. He took business courses at Cal State Sacramento in the late 1980s and, according to the New York Times, joined a group in Sacramento called the Islamic Assistance Organization.Jordanian investigators, cited by the Times, claimed the organization had helped to facilitate Hijazi’s move to Islamic training camps in Afghanistan, where, according to Western and Middle East press reports, he was trained by bin Laden operatives in the use of bombs and explosives. According to Jordanian officials, Hijazi and the other plotters had planned to blow up the 400-room Radisson Hotel in downtown Amman, Christian holy sites in Jordan and two border crossings into Israel.”If you want to understand the modern face of global Islamic terrorism and how it functions, look at Jordan,” Richard A. Clarke, a White House counterterrorism official, told the New York Times last January. “The Jordan plot is the template.”Yesterday, Jordanian army troops ringed the National Security Court in suburban Amman for hours before proceedings began. Outside the courthouse, chief defense attorney Taisir Diab claimed that Hijazi had been given a list of the millennium bomb indictments after agents of the Syrian secret service handed him over to Jordanian authorities. “They said, ‘Sign this, or we’ll kill you, and nobody will even know you’ve died,’ ” Diab said.A U.S. Embassy source would not comment on rumors that Hijazi disclosed vital information on al Qaeda and bin Laden in the meeting with Hickman. Press reports earlier this year indicated Hijazi had described his involvement with bin Laden to investigators. However, it is standard practice for U.S. diplomats abroad to offer assistance to U.S. citizens in legal difficulties, the source noted, adding that no official request for Hickman’s court testimony had been presented to the embassy. 

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