The Jordanian Government aggressively pursued the network of fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, believed responsible for attacks in Jordan and Iraq, including the November 9 bombing of three hotels in Amman that killed 63 people and the August 19 rocket attack in Aqaba that also impacted Eilat, Israel. Jordan publicly condemned terrorist acts throughout the world, introduced heightened security measures, and began drafting new counterterrorism legislation. Jordanian security forces disrupted numerous terrorist plots during the year, including several that targeted U.S. interests. Jordan's State Security Court, which oversees terrorism-related cases, processed a heavy caseload, many of which involved suspects affiliated with Zarqawi.
The November 9 hotel bombings, the country's worst-ever terrorist attacks, left many Jordanians shocked. The targeting of a wedding reception, in particular, eroded support for Zarqawi and al-Qaida within Jordan. Surveys taken in the weeks after the bombings showed that approximately 80 percent of those polled had negative opinions of al-Qaida; 90 percent believed al-Qaida was a terrorist organization; and approximately 65 percent changed their views as a result of the bombings. The televised confession of would-be suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi further reduced support for Zarqawi and Islamic extremists in general.
In mid-November, in response to the hotel bombings, members of the royal family, including Queen Rania and Princess Basma, led a series of street protests, vigils, and marches against terrorism; approximately 200,000 people participated in the largest of these events. The government promoted religious tolerance, interfaith dialogue, and shared values between civilizations with a number of initiatives, including the July International Islamic Conference in Amman, and the ensuing "Amman Message" of tolerance and moderation in Islam. In December, Jordan called on the Organization of the Islamic Conference to dedicate itself to combating extremism.
After the November bombings, Jordanian Public Security Department commanders met with representatives of hotels, banks, restaurants, and tourist sites to discuss implementing security measures to prevent future attacks. Many hotels, shopping malls, and other major institutions installed metal detectors and electronic surveillance systems. In response to King Abdullah's call for a strategy to preempt terrorist plots, 23 Jordanian academics created an NGO called The Scientific Society to Combat Terrorism.
Border security remained a top concern of Jordanian officials. Since the Aqaba rocket attack in August, Jordan has enforced strict security measures at the Karama-Trebil border crossing, including thorough manual searches of all vehicles and persons attempting to enter the country. In addition, Jordanian authorities issued a zero tolerance policy toward fuel smuggling. Notably, Jordan and Iraq signed a security agreement to establish a committee to exchange information on terrorists, organized crime, and border infiltration.
The State Security Court (SSC) moved forward several high-profile al-Qaida-related terrorism cases. Legal action against 13 men accused of plotting a chemical bomb attack in Amman in April 2004 continued as reputed cell leader Zamia Jays threatened court officials and admitted meeting with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in preparation for the attack. In November, prosecutors demanded the death penalty for the plotters. Four of the accused, including Zarqawi, are being tried in absentia. Separately, Zarqawi was sentenced to death by the SSC in 2004 for the 2002 murder of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley. He is also being tried in absentia for a December 2004 attack at the Karama-Trebil border crossing. In November, the SSC charged Muammar Jaghbir with plotting subversive acts for the 2003 attack against the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad that killed 17.
Jaghbir was arrested in Iraq in 2004 by U.S. forces and handed over to authorities in Jordan, where he is standing trial for the assassination of Laurence Foley. In September, the SSC sentenced 12 Islamist militants to prison terms ranging from one and one-half to three years (falling well short of the maximum penalties of death or 15 years of hard labor) for plotting terrorist attacks against the U.S. and Israeli embassies. During their sentencing, the defendants praised the September 11 al-Qaida attacks and claimed that the verdict would not dissuade them from pursuing the path of extremism.
The SCC heard several non-al-Qaida-related terrorism cases. The highly contentious trial of more than 100 Jordanians charged with involvement in the 2002 Ma'an riots, which left six dead, began in early 2005. Ninety-five of the defendants are being tried in absentia. The main defendant in the case, Abu Sayyaf, retracted his earlier confession, claiming he was tortured and forced to confess. In January, the SSC sentenced two men to two and one-half year prison terms for plotting attacks against foreign diplomats in Amman. In October, the SSC sentenced five Jordanians to prison terms ranging from one to five years of hard labor for plotting attacks in Israel and against tourists in Jordan. Another three men were sentenced to five years' imprisonment for plotting attacks on liquor stores and tourists in Aqaba. In November, the SSC said it would re-examine guilty verdicts issued against seven militants convicted of a bungled conspiracy to use poison gas against American and Israeli tourists during Jordan's millennium celebrations in December 1999. An appeals court had ordered a retrial on the grounds that the plotters may be covered under a general amnesty issued by King Abdullah.
In November, the Jordanian Government proposed counterterrorism legislation that would authorize penalties for anyone who condones or supports acts of terrorism. The proposed bill, still in the drafting stage, would also allow authorities to hold terror suspects indefinitely.