AMMAN – A Japanese photojournalist was sentenced Sunday to 18 months in prison for causing the explosion at Amman airport on May 1 that killed one airport security guard and injured five others.
A Jordanian military tribunal handed the sentence to Hiroki Gomi, 36, a photojournalist for Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun.
However, Jordan’s King Abdullah II is prepared to pardon Gomi, a source close to the royal family said earlier, as the king apparently considers the case an accident.
The king apparently had decided to grant the pardon after the case had been ruled on and out of consideration of Jordan’s relations with Japan. The Mainichi said it will ask the king for the pardon.
Gomi pleaded not guilty throughout his trial, claiming he was not aware that the explosive he was carrying was dangerous.
The prosecution had charged Gomi with negligence resulting in death and injuries, and with illegal possession of an explosive.
Gomi was on his way back to Japan after covering the U.S.-led war on Iraq when the cluster bomblet in his luggage exploded.
He had been in custody since May 1, when the explosion at Jordan’s Queen Alia international airport killed Ali Al-Sarhan.
The photographer told interrogators he had found the two metal devices — which Jordanian investigators later identified as cluster bombs — while covering the war. He said he was unaware they were live.
Gomi’s defense lawyers argued that the prosecution had failed to prove its claim that Gomi knew it was a cluster bomblet, and they argued he was innocent of the charge of illegal possession of an explosive.
But the prosecutors, led by Muhanad Hijazi, the state security court prosecutor in charge of the case, had demanded that Gomi be punished, telling the tribunal that Gomi had knowledge of explosives given past assignments in countries such as Cambodia.
Gomi’s Jordanian translator, Abdul-Salam Hilweh, who had been given a similar explosive device by Gomi as a souvenir while they were covering the Iraq war, was found not guilty.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.