Jordanian Soldier Sentenced to Life in Prison for Killing US Trainers

Cheryl Sanders
July 17, 2017

A military court judge in Amman on Monday sentenced a Jordanian soldier who shot dead three USA trainers to life in prison, state-run media said.

The trial "confirmed that the deceased U.S. service members followed all established procedures when accessing the base the day of the incident, as we have noted before", the U.S. Embassy in Jordan said.

U.S. embassy staff and relatives of the victims were present at Monday's hearing, which took place under heavy security.

Jordan's military initially said the incident occurred because the US trainers attempted to enter the gate without following the orders to stop from guards. Officials then withdrew the claims under pressure from Washington, which maintained that terrorism could be an issue.

Some of the relatives criticized Jordan's handling of the case and said the defendant should have received the death penalty.

Jordan is a member of the US-led worldwide coalition that has been bombing positions of the Islamic State terror organisation in Syria and Iraq since 2014. Amman has insisted, however, that several attacks carried out in the country over the past years had no links to terrorists and that the attackers were lone wolves with personal problems. Jordan hosts troops, including trainers, from the US and other countries as part of the anti-IS battle. He said the US respects Jordan's military process and praised Jordan for adhering to its own laws in resolving the case expeditiously. Three of the gate guards said they held their fire, but Tuwayha, who was in the guard house at the time, opened fire from inside before walking out and continuing to shoot.

At that moment, there was "a low sound of gunfire from a distant and unknown source".

The accused soldier was tried for first-degree murder and pled not guilty.

The defendant maintains that he had "no intention of killing anyone" and had no resentment towards Americans.

Relatives of the victims, who have described video of the scene, said the footage shows that Tuwayha was shooting for six minutes and did not stop even when the Americans identified themselves as allies. These included allowing the defendant to be re-interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his motive and releasing the security video to the families.

"In this verdict, nobody comes out happy", she said.

US Embassy representatives who were present during the trial and judicial proceedings said they appreciated "the expedience and seriousness of the court proceedings" following the guilty verdict on Monday.

The US Army Special Forces soldiers were shot at the King Faisal Air Base in Jordan last November.

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