October 15, 2009 / 2:27 PM / 10 years ago

Jordan jails 12 for attack on choir

* Men guilty of firing on musicians after concert

* Claim of link to al Qaeda

* Defence lawyer says trial political, alleges torture

AMMAN, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Jordan sentenced 12 men to between 15 and 20 years in jail on Thursday for shooting at a group of musicians and desecrating a church, judicial sources said.

The men opened fire on a Lebanese choir after an outdoor performance in the downtown area of the capital in July 2008.

One attacker was killed and several people were injured. Security sources said the gunmen suspected at the time that the singers were Israelis.

The men were also found guilty of throwing petrol bombs at a church and cemetery in the northern city of Irbid after circulating videos that purportedly showed Christians mocking the Prophet Mohammed and the Muslim call to prayers.

They were also condemned for plotting to attack Western tourists near the Roman amphitheatre in downtown Amman.

The military court found the men "guilty of carrying out terrorist attacks by use of explosives, the manufacture and possession of explosives and conspiring to carry out terror attacks."

Five of the attackers escaped the death penalty which the court commuted because no one was killed in the attacks.

Prosecutors said the group’s mastermind, Shaker al-Khatib, who was sentenced to 20 years, had been trained in Lebanon by al Qaeda affiliated militants.

The defence said confessions were extracted under duress and called the case politically motivated. The accused pleaded not guilty when their trial started in January.

"The whole affair has been blown out of proportion and the sentences are unjust and my clients were subjected to torture," defence lawyer Musa Abdallat told Reuters.

Jordan has detained or charged scores of men in recent years for plotting attacks on Westerners, Israeli, security and government targets.

(Writing by Suleiman al-Khalidi; editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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