Judicial sources said the seven defendants who appeared in court on Monday, denied the charges levelled against them in July.

 

One of those recruited by them was named as Raed Mansur al-Banna, a Jordanian allegedly involved in a bombing that killed 118 people in the Iraqi Shia city of Hilla in February.

 

Ties between Amman and Baghdad became strained following the attack, which sparked widespread demonstrations against Jordan in Iraq.

 

Both countries temporarily recalled senior diplomats, but relations were patched up quickly, with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani visiting Amman in May.

 

Hard labour

 

According to the charge-sheet, the seven defendants, aged between 23 and 33, recruited fighters in Jordan and sent them to Syria, where an individual identified as Abu al-Janna provided them with military training.

 

The fighters' aim was to 'fight US
forces and Iraqi policemen'

Janna, who is not on trial in Jordan, also helped the recruits infiltrate Iraq "to fight American forces and Iraqi policemen", the charge-sheet said.

 

If found guilty the suspects could be sentenced to up to 15 years hard labour, judicial sources said, adding that a new hearing was scheduled for 3 October.

 

Meanwhile the state prosecutor indicted four other Jordanians arrested in July on similar charges.

 

The defendants are specifically accused of "carrying out activity not approved by the government, which jeopardised Jordan's relations with another country", a judicial source said.

 

According to a copy of the charge-sheet, alleged ringleader Abdullah al-Mrayat, 28, travelled to Syria in May with the intention of joining fighters in Iraq.

 

Befriending the prince

 

While in Syria he befriended Abu Adam al-Tunisi, a man described as the "prince (leader) of insurgent groups" who took him to the border with Iraq. But an attempt to enter the country failed and Mrayat returned to Jordan in June.

 

Back home, and at the request of Tunisi, he allegedly recruited fighters for Iraq identified as Moaz al-Zohbi, 21, Saleh al-Mghari, 29, and Khaled al-Mashur, 29, telling them they could carry out attacks in Iraq.

 

Zohbi "refused to become a suicide bomber but agreed, like the other two, to go fight in Iraq", the charge-sheet added.

 

A date for the trial has not been announced, but if found guilty the suspects could also be sentenced to up to 15 years' hard labour.