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Isam Mohammed Taher al-Barqawi, Al Qaeda Chief's Mentor, Jailed In Jordan

Jordan Jail

JAMAL HALABY   07/28/11 12:15 PM ET   AP

AMMAN, Jordan — The mentor of slain al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was convicted Thursday of aiding the Afghan Taliban and sentenced to five years in prison in Jordan.

The Palestinian-born Isam Mohammed Taher al-Barqawi, better known as Sheik Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, was found guilty of "plotting terrorism" and recruiting militants in Jordan to join the Taliban in Afghanistan. He was tried in a military court with three other Jordanian Palestinians.

Al-Maqdisi, whom al-Zarqawi often praised in Internet writings, shouted at the judges as the ruling was handed down.

"You are convicting us of wrongdoing for something that our religion condones, which is standing by fellow Muslims against the American occupiers of Muslim land in Afghanistan," he said, raising his right arm and pointing his finger at the three-man tribunal.

The slain al-Qaida in Iraq leader had described al-Maqdisi as his mentor.

The two men shared a cell block between 1995 and 1999, after which al-Zarqawi was released under a special amnesty by Jordan's king and went on to lead al-Qaida in Iraq until he was killed by a U.S. airstrike in 2006.

Al-Maqdisi was imprisoned a second time and released in 2008 after three years in jail for encouraging attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.

He was arrested again, along with the other two defendants in a police sweep late last year.

On Thursday, al-Maqdisi stood behind bars along with the two other defendants in a small and stuffy courtroom in Amman's eastern suburbs, guarded by armed police. Wearing a long beard and a dark blue prison uniform, he shouted at the judges.

"Putting us in jail will not dissuade us from supporting the mujahedeen," he said, referring to the insurgents in Afghanistan. "We will continue to support them, even if you sentence us to death. We will continue to be fighters until the day we die."

The other three defendants, including one tried in absentia, were found guilty of the same offenses and sentenced prison sentences of between 2 1/2 and five years. The three men present for the trial had pleaded not guilty in January.

Lawyer Majed Liftawi and two other attorneys said they will appeal the ruling.

The indictment said al-Maqdisi and his cell sought to help the Taliban in their "terror attacks" against U.S. and other troops in Afghanistan.

It said the four raised funds from unspecified donors in Jordan and tried to go to Afghanistan to join the Taliban but their plan failed and because al-Maqdisi was arrested.

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Halaby can be reached at: http://facebook.com/jjhalaby

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Filed by Curtis M. Wong  |