8 get death sentence in Jordan for killing of American

6 of them are at large

victim was AID official


CAIRO - A military court in Jordan sentenced to death yesterday eight Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida - six of them in absentia - for the assassination of an American diplomat in the front yard of his Amman home in October 2002.

One militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most prominent of those still at large, is believed to be operating in Iraq.

Yesterday Islamist Web sites featured an audiotape supposedly from him threatening further attacks against American and other foreign forces there, as well as senior U.S. military and civilian figures.

Besides Zarqawi, whose real name is Ahmed Fadheel Nazal al-Khalayleh, Jordan accused 10 other defendants in the murder of Laurence Foley, 60, a senior administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Salem Saad bin Suweid, a 41-year-old Libyan convicted of shooting Foley, and Yasir Friehat, a Jordanian, 29, convicted for driving the getaway car, were the two men present in court who were sentenced to death.

Muhammad Demes and Muhammad Amin, two other Jordanians, were sentenced to 15 and six years hard labor, respectively.

A fifth man was released for lack of evidence.

All five had pleaded innocent, saying they had confessed under duress. Bin Suweid and Friehat produced witnesses who testified that they had not been at the scene of the crime.

The sentences can be appealed.

"Is this your verdict or that of Bush?" Demes shouted in Jordan's State Security Court as the sentences were read, Reuters reported.

"We had nothing to do with the killing, and this is unjust."

The government accused the al-Qaida network of organizing the killing, which unsettled foreigners in Jordan's normally quiet capital.

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