Source AP ©

Jordan prosecutors charge four men with smuggling heroin and weapons into Israel

Jordan's military prosecutors charged four men with smuggling heroin and weapons into Israel and the West Bank across the Dead Sea for trade purposes.

Two of the suspects, identified as Yousef M., 23, and Ahmed S., 23, are in police custody. Two others, identified as Khaled Rashaydeh and his brother Ali  both Palestinian are at large and are to be tried in absentia unless they surrender to police within ten days, the document said.

According to the charges, Yousef and Ahmed had agreed to hide the drugs and weapons on the Jordanian shore of the Dead Sea under a tree. The cargo was loaded on a boat which Khaled was to take to the Israeli side.

But an army patrol in the area uncovered the boat with part of the shipment as Khaled fled. The army confiscated the drugs, including more than four kilograms of heroin, several machine guns and ammunition. Yousef was arrested at the scene while the third suspect, Ahmed, was taken into custody in December.

The four men were charged with four counts, including exporting heroin for trade purposes and exporting weapons and ammunition without legal authorization, the court document said.

They are also accused of transporting several shipments of drugs and weapons through the Dead Sea to Israel and the West Bank in 2006. No trial date has been set.

A fifth man, identified as Abu-Eqab al-Odwan, who lived in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea and allegedly procured the weapons and the ammunition for the smugglers, has not been charged.

In a separate trial Wednesday, a military prosecutor urged a Jordanian court to issue harsh sentences to 17 men, including Fatah Islam leader Shaker al-Absi, for plotting to join al-Qaida fighters in Iraq.

The official charges against the men include illegal possession of weapons, harming the relations of a friendly country and attempting to illegally cross Jordan's borders. Their trial started two months ago, and al-Absi is being tried in absentia.

Al-Absi is currently leading a group Fatah Islam fighters in a standoff with the Lebanese army inside a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon.

More than 100 people have been reported killed since the fighting began on May 20, the worst internal violence since the end of Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war.

If convicted by the Jordanian court, al-Absi could be sentenced to life in prison with hard labor.

The hearing was adjourned until an unspecified date to issue the verdict.

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