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Defendants in Dead Sea floods case plead not guilty

Teachers syndicate might escalate protests in support of colleagues

By Rana Husseini - Nov 15,2018 - Last updated at Nov 15,2018

AMMAN — Hearings started on Wednesday in the case of the Dead Sea tragedy, with the eight defendants entering a not-guilty plea, while their colleagues were staging a protest outside demanding dismissal of the case. 

The defendants, who are standing trial at the Amman Court of Reconciliation, included the Victoria College School (VCS) owner and its principal, three Ministry of Education employees and three from a tourism company.

They are charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of 21 people in the Dead Sea area during bad weather conditions last month, including students from the VCS who were on a trip to the Zarqa-Maeen Valley, when flashfloods swept through the area where they were hiking.

The eight, including three men and five women, were also charged with negligence following the October 25 incident that grabbed headlines amid public outrage and calls.

Other victims included families who were in the area and a tour guide.

Presiding Judge Mohammad Tarawneh denied a request to release the defendants on bail “although the lawyers representing the other families informed him that they do not mind releasing them while maintain their legal rights”, said Lawyer Ahmad Najdawi.

“We will try again, especially the school principal whom I represent, on humanitarian and health grounds,” Najdawi told The Jordan Times. The woman, who lost her daughter in the incident, reportedly collapsed and was hospitalised. 

The court adjourned the session until Sunday to hear more witnesses in the case.

Meanwhile, lawyer Mohammad Askar, who represents the Jordan Teachers Union (JTU) told The Jordan Times that “the union is exerting all its efforts to free, on bail, the educators who are members of the union”.

“The union plans to discuss the issue at its meeting on Tuesday,” Askar said.

The JTU staged a sit-in in front of the Palace of Justice to express its solidarity with the detained educators, according to a press release. 

The JTU stated in the press release that it would “study its options of escalating the protests if the court insists on denying bail”.

The ministers of education and tourism had to resign in the aftermath of the tragedy under popular pressures.

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