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Defence appeals soldier case verdict as fellow tribesmen rally

By Rana Husseini - Jul 20,2017 - Last updated at Jul 20,2017

AMMAN — The lawyer of a Jordanian soldier, who earlier this week was sentenced to life in prison for killing three US officers at an army base in Jafer in November, on Wednesday contested the verdict at a higher military court.

Maarek Sami Tawayha shot dead three US Special Forces instructors outside the King Faisal Airbase in Jafer, Maan, some 300km south of Amman, on November 4.

“I have filed a motion today at the military appeals court asking to overturn the verdict of my client or to declare him not guilty or not responsible,” Tawayha’s lawyer, Subhi Mawwas, told The Jordan Times.

Mawwas, who was the president of the State Security Court few years back, told The Jordan Times that he ‘‘presented a seven-page motion that proves my client did not intend to kill anyone and was only defending the military base”.

The three US service members killed in the November attack were Special Forces soldiers from the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) located at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  They have been identified as Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27, Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe, 30, and Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty, 27.

The court convicted Tawayha, a corporal, of manslaughter of more than one person and violating the military orders and regulations.

The tribunal also decided to demote the defendant and discharged him from military service.

The prosecution has stated in the charge sheet that the defendant failed to apply the rules of engagement when he shot and killed the three men with his M16 at the gate of the Prince Feisal Airbase in Jafer, when he heard shooting with unidentified source.”
The prosecution added that the defendant confessed to shooting at the vehicles where the three victims were while he was on duty. 
The US Embassy issued a statement shortly after the verdict stating that “the embassy observed the trial and judicial proceedings, which confirmed that the deceased US service members followed all established procedures when accessing the base the day of the incident”. “We are reassured to see the perpetrator brought to justice. We appreciate the access provided to us and to the families of the victims, as well as the expedience and seriousness of the court proceedings, consistent with Jordanian law. Despite this tragedy, Jordan remains a strategic partner,” embassy officials have said.

Meanwhile, hundreds from the defendant’s tribe, the Hweitat, drove from Maan to Amman to protest the court’s verdict and called for their son’s release.

The protesters, who insisted that the verdict was “politically driven”, according to reports, headed for the American embassy’s headquarters in Abdoun but were prevented from reaching the premises by traffic police and other security personnel.

 

Traffic was also diverted in other vital areas of the capital where the group was planning to stage a sit-in causing traffic jams that lasted for hours.

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