Jordan Broadcasts Hamas Confessions

The Associated Press
Thursday, May 11, 2006; 11:16 PM

AMMAN, Jordan -- State television broadcast on Thursday confessions by three members of the militant Palestinian group Hamas detained in what Jordan said was a plot to target its officials.

Hamas denied the charges and accused Jordan of trying to undermine the Palestinian government, which it now leads.

The three suspects said in their confessions that they were Hamas agents who monitored Jordanian intelligence officers and foreign tourists, apparently for a possible attack. Two said they acquired arms and ammunition for Hamas.

The television showed footage of weapons, including dozens of hand grenades and Iranian-made Katyusha rockets, that were seized when Jordanian police arrested 20 Hamas activists in raids that began April 18. Some of the weapons were wrapped in plastic and had allegedly been hidden in an olive grove in northern Jordan.

The broadcast of the confessions came one day after Jordan said it arrested more than 20 Hamas activists for smuggling weapons into the kingdom with a view to attacking various sites and military and civilian officials. The government had previously said the weapons were brought in from neighboring Syria.

Hamas officials _ along with the Syrian government which hosts Hamas' exiled leadership _ have denied the accusations.

The discovery of the weapons cache further strained Jordan's relations with Hamas, which have been tense for years. Jordan warned the Hamas-led Palestinian government against fomenting any violence in the kingdom.

Ayman Naji Daraghmeh, 34, said in his confession that Hamas had instructed him to watch a certain Jordanian intelligence officer, but he did not explain why the group wanted the officer monitored.

"They said this officer has harmed the movement," said Daraghmeh, who had a long beard and looked relaxed in his videotape.

He said a fellow Hamas operative managed to take some "quick photos" of the intelligence officer. Daraghmeh then took these pictures to Hamas in Syria, where he received training in personal security and "resisting interrogation," he said.

Detainee Ahmad Abu Rabee, 27, said in his confession that Daraghmeh had ordered him to "monitor a bus of the intelligence department" in an Amman district.

He said he watched the bus "three or four times," and reported to Daraghmeh the times of the day that the bus transported the intelligence personnel.

"I understood from Ayman (Daraghmeh) that they had planned to target the bus," he said, his hand shaking in the videotaped confession.

Abu Rabee also said Daraghmeh had asked him to buy weapons and ammunition, and he did so.

Detainee Ahmed Abu Thiyab, a mosque preacher, said in his confession he got weapons and ammunition for Hamas in Jordan, and that some of the arms came from Iraq.

He said Daraghmeh had also asked him to "gather information on foreign tourists" in the Jordanian resort of Aqaba and to monitor an unidentified Jordanian businessman. Abu Thiyab said Daraghmeh thought the businessman was a Jew, but he was actually a Christian.

Abu Thiyab did not speak of any plans for attacks, saying Daraghmeh told him his activities were "in the service of God and Islam."

Hamas spokesmen challenged the allegations.

"We are very displeased with the way the Jordanian government has handled this case," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera.

"This is a lie that no one can believe," Abu Zuhri added. "The Jordanian government is playing an unclean role against Hamas at a time when the movement and the Palestinian people are subjected to international siege."

In Beirut, Lebanon, Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan accused Jordan of fabricating the whole story.

"It is not difficult for the (Jordanian) intelligence service to get a person to dig in front of the cameras and extract weapons that have been buried by an unknown body. I wouldn't be surprised if the intelligence service itself did this," Hamdan told the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya. "It is not difficult to bring people, torture them, punish them and force them ... to record such statements."

Jordanian government spokesman Nasser Judeh rebuked Hamas for its denials.

"Why would we fabricate such a matter, which is a serious threat to Jordanian national security?" he asked The Associated Press. "They asked for evidence. When we show them the evidence, they say it's fabricated."

© 2006 The Associated Press