"Interrogators forced me to sign a guilty confession under beating and torture," testified defendant Muhammad Ahmad al-Chalabi on Sunday, the purported leader of a 108-member cell which allegedly plotted to strike in the southern city of Maan.

"I neither committed any act of terrorism, nor have I plotted to strike Maan or kill anyone," added al-Chalabi, also known as Abu-Sayyaf, echoing testimonies by the other 13 alleged cell members in police custody.

The 14 defendants, along with 94 others at large who are being tried in absentia, are charged with seven crimes which include launching terrorist attacks in November 2002 in Maan, 210km, south of Amman.

Six people, including two police officers, were killed in shootouts between armed men and police during unrest in the southern desert city.

Prosecutors claim al-Chalabi urged his followers to rebel against Maan city officials, including the mayor and police chief.

Contesting the charges

The defendants have pleaded innocent to all the charges, which also include illegal possession of automatic arms and explosives, importing arms, holding illegal gatherings and rioting.

If convicted on all counts, the defendants face the death penalty.

Al-Chalabi is serving 15 years in jail for another case in which 13 men were charged with plotting terror attacks against US targets in Jordan.

The trial was adjourned for a week.