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:Local: Defence claims prisoners have been subject to intimidation in Maan case

By Rana Husseini

AMMAN ? A defence lawyer representing 14 men on trial at the State Security Court (SSC), accused of inciting the Maan riots, on Sunday claimed his clients had been mistreated and subjected to intimidation by prison officials.

The defence allegations came on the final day of the prosecution's case.

Defence lawyer Hikmat Rawashdeh told the tribunal that his clients' rights, as stipulated in the Prisons Law, had been violated by staff at the Qafqafa and Swaqa rehabilitation and correctional centres where they have been held since November 2002.

?My clients have informed me that they suffer from constant intimidation by prison guards and have had their books and properties seized by prison authorities,??? Rawashdeh said.

He also told the tribunal that the main defendant in the case, Mohammad Shalabi, had been denied medical treatment after he complained of feeling ill.

The Public Security Department (PSD), however, denied the allegations. Major Bashir Daajah, head of the PSD's press office, stressed in a statement that the defendant was receiving fair treatment along with the other inmates and detainees in the Qafqafa correction centre.

He said that none of Abu Sayyaf's belongings had been confiscated, adding that prison guards only remove illegal items found in the inmates' possession during inspection tours, as per the rules.

The officer provided the press with a medical report dated May 11, proving that Shalabi was referred at least on one occasion to hospital for kidney pains. The report indicates that the defendant was suffering from pains caused by a kidney stone.

Shalabi, also known as Abu Sayyaf, is accused of inciting the 2002 Maan riots, which left two policemen and four citizens dead.

Rawashdeh said his clients had also informed him that the prison administration had installed cameras and microphones in the prisoners' rooms, in flagrant violation of the Prisons Law.

State Prosecutor Fawaz Etoum rested his case paving the way for Rawashdeh to start preparing the arguments for the defence.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, claiming their confessions were extracted under torture and duress by the security forces.

They are charged with possessing automatic weapons and unlicensed guns, plotting subversive acts by using flammable substances, illegal public assembly with the intent of causing riots and importing weapons with the intention of using them illegally.

The tribunal adjourned the session until May 29 to allow Rawashdeh time to prepare the defence case.

Monday, May 16, 2005

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