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‘WhatsApp jihadist’ pleads case at security court

By Taylor Luck - Nov 03,2014 - Last updated at Nov 03,2014

AMMAN — A Jordanian charged with using mobile phone applications to promote and recruit for the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group stated his defence on Monday before the State Security Court (SSC).

Defendant Hisham Moussa denied using mobile phone application WhatsApp to distribute pro-IS propaganda, claiming he had not accessed his account in over six months.

 “I have never supported the Islamic State, and even if I did, records will show that I never made a statement in support of them on WhatsApp or any other media,” Moussa said in his first statements before the court.

During the hearing, defence attorney Moussa Abdallat called the defendant’s brother, Motaz Moussa, to the stand to testify that Hisham›s WhatsApp account had been dormant since April 14, some five months before security services say the 21-year-old distributed poems and slogans urging citizens to join and defend IS.

Presiding over the session, court president and military judge Samih Majali cast doubt over the witness’ credibility, noting that Motaz was not “an independent IT expert” and did not possess company or server records verifying the defendant’s social media and mobile phone activity. 

Abdallat pledged to call an IT and mobile phone expert to testify in the next session to verify the witness’ claims.

However, Majali was doubtful of Abdallat’s ability to retrieve official records, noting that “WhatsApp servers are in America, and are not accessible by [local] mobile phone companies.”

Also during the session, Abdallat summoned the defendant’s Sharia (Islamic law) professor to vouch for his character and views of Islam.

Abdullah Al Maaytah, University of Jordan professor of Sharia, confirmed that Hisham actively took part in class discussions and lectures likening IS to heretics.

Maaytah described the Islam taught in his courses as “moderate and away from extremism”, adding that he believes his pupil follows the same beliefs.

However, when pressed by prosecutor Amer Allawan, the professor admitted that he had no “special relationship” with the defendant and had no interaction with him outside of class.  

Hisham is facing charges of “promoting terrorist ideology” for allegedly publishing a series of pro-IS poems and on WhatsApp in September, a violation of articles 3 and 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Law. 

He faces between two-and-a-half and five years in prison if convicted. 

Also on Monday, the court postponed the trial of six suspected IS supporters to November 10. 

Authorities have referred 20 citizens to the SSC over the past six weeks for allegedly publishing IS propaganda on social media and networking sites.

Over 120 citizens have been detained for suspected ties with IS since the launch of the US-led war against the terrorist group in mid-September, with dozens expected to be referred to court later this month.  

In another case, the trial opened of a citizen charged with using social media to “plan and carry out terrorist acts” against Australian nationals. 

M.H., an Amman resident, reportedly used Facebook to threaten the Australian embassy and its citizens over their country’s role in the US-led coalition against IS.

According to the charge sheet, the defendant called for attacks against the Australian embassy and nationals in Amman.

The defendant pleaded not guilty and the court is set to hear the defence’s opening statements next Monday. 

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