By REEM SAAD and OMAR AKOUR
AMMAN, Jordan A Jordanian soldier was sentenced Monday to life in prison after being convicted of killing three U.S. military trainers last year, but some said questions lingered about his motive for the shooting at a Jordanian air base.
Jordan has ruled out terrorism in the November shooting in which the convoy of the U.S. Army Green Berets came under fire at the base entrance.
The defendant has said he felt no animosity toward Americans and opened fire because he believed the base was coming under attack.
However, relatives of the slain U.S. troops have described security camera footage that they say shows him shooting for six minutes, reloading and aiming at the Americans, even as they identify themselves as friendly forces.
After a “not guilty” plea, the Jordanian soldier, 1st Sgt. Marik al-Tuwayha, was tried by a military court in Jordan’s capital of Amman for the killings of Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27, of Kirksville, Missouri; Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe, 30, of Tucson, Arizona; and Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty, 27, of Kerrville, Texas.
During the monthlong trial, he watched the proceedings silently while standing in a cage in the courtroom.
He did not react Monday when the judge announced the verdict and the maximum possible sentence, life in prison with hard labor. When he was led out of the cage, he said: “I have all the respect for the king, but I was doing my job.”
Relatives of two of the U.S. soldiers sat quietly as the judge read the ruling.
Charles Lewellen, 53, whose son was killed, later told The Associated Press that the verdict “won’t take the pain away,” but that it proved “what we have been saying all along … that he murdered our sons.”
Some of the relatives criticized Jordan’s handling of the case and said the defendant should have received the death penalty. Jordan allows the death penalty, but it is usually handed down in terrorism cases or in a murder coupled with another crime.
The Americans were killed Nov. 4, as their convoy waited at the gate to the al-Jafr base in southern Jordan. Jordan initially said the Americans triggered the shooting by disobeying entry rules, a claim that was later withdrawn.
The trial “confirmed that the deceased U.S. service members followed all established procedures when accessing the base the day of the incident, as we have noted before,” the U.S. Embassy in Jordan said. “We are reassured to see the perpetrator brought to…