July 17 (UPI) — A military court judge in Amman on Monday sentenced a Jordanian soldier who shot dead three U.S. trainers to life in prison, state-run media said.
The court had convicted Marik al-Tuwayha of premeditated murder for the incident in November in which he opened fire on vehicles approaching a military base in al-Jafr, about 190 miles east of Amman. Three U.S. Special Forces soldiers died in the shooting and Jordanian authorities, joined by the FBI, launched an investigation.
The official Jordan News Agency reported the court sentenced Tuwayha to life imprisonment and hard labor. Tuwayha had pleaded not guilty and said he opened fire on the U.S. troops out of fear the base was under attack.
Jordan’s military initially said the incident occurred because the U.S. trainers attempted to enter the gate without following the orders to stop from guards. Jordan’s military later withdrew the claim and supported charges against Tuwayha.
Mohammed al-Afif, the judge presiding over the case said earlier this month that Tuwayha “had no relation to any terror groups or extremist groups, and he did not have an extremist ideology.”
The Israeli i24NEWS outlet reported the family of the slain U.S. soldiers — Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27; Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe, 30; and Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty, 27 — were in attendance during sentencing. The families criticized the life in prison sentence as not severe enough, calling instead for the death penalty, the Israeli outlet reported.
Jordan is a close ally to the United States — also one of the few Arab nations to have joined the United States’ international coalition to fight the Islamic State terror group. The United States, as it does with many allies throughout the world, including in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines, provides training to Jordanian security agencies.