AMMAN: A court in Jordan has sentenced six people to death for a horrific attack on a teenage boy in which they gouged his eyes and chopped off his hands.
Another four people received prison terms from 1-15 years for their roles in the attack on 16-year-old Saleh Hamdan in October.
The case, known as the “the Zarqa boy crime,” sparked outrage and dismay in Jordan as King Abdullah II demanded an immediate arrest of the attackers and for the crime to be handled by the country’s highest court.
The country’s State Security Court (SSC) on Wednesday issued verdicts against the 17 people charged in the case along with the death and prison sentences. Seven of the accused were found not guilty. One of the men sentenced to death was already a fugitive from another crime.
Saleh told Arab News that the court verdicts as “just” and thanked the SSC and Jordanians for their support.
His mother said: “Although the verdicts will never bring my son’s hands back, they give us some relief.”
Saleh told the Jordan News Agency last year that a group of men had taken him to a remote area in Zarqa governorate, some 30 kilometers east of Amman, and attacked him in revenge for an alleged murder committed by one of his relatives.
Along with losing his hands, he has also lost almost all the site in one eye.
In the indictment, the SSC, which handles high-profile cases related to terrorism and undermining state security, said the attackers had committed serious grand crimes, including terrorism, spreading fear, gang formation, attempted murder, kidnapping and causing permanent disability.
A video showing the crime sparked outrage, and Jordanians took to social media condemning the crime and requesting the maximum punishment against the perpetrators. Arabic hashtags, which translate into #execute_zarqa_criminals, #Zarqa_crime, #King_follows_up, and #zarqa_child went viral on Facebook and Twitter.
The Public Security Department warned against sharing the video related to the assault. It identified the person who shot and shared the video of the crime and referred him to the prosecutor general.
The king directed that Saleh receive treatment at the Jordanian Royal Medical Services, the organization that provides health care to the kingdom’s military.
The UN children’s agency issued a statement condemning the attack.
“We are shocked and saddened by the horrific violence perpetrated against a 16-year old child in Zarqa.” UNICEF Jordan Representative Tanya Chapuisat said. “Violence against children is never acceptable.”
Queen Rania of Jordan said it was an “unspeakable atrocity in all respects.”
After the attack, police launched a nationwide security campaign cracking down on criminal gangs with the government vowing no leniency and full support for all law enforcement efforts. The campaign resulted in the arrest of hundreds of wanted suspects involved in protection rackets.