A Jordanian soldier was sentenced to life in prison on Monday for fatally shooting three U.S. military trainers outside an army base in southern Jordan last November. The soldier, 39-year-old Maarik al-Tawaiha, previously pleaded “not guilty,” arguing that a vehicle containing the now-deceased soldiers—Matthew Lewellen, Kevin McEnroe, and James Moriarty—appeared to pose a threat to the base. In June, the prosecution accused al-Tawaiha of voluntary manslaughter, violating military orders, and insulting the dignity and reputation of the armed forces. On Monday, a military court in Amman sentenced him to “hard labor for life”—a punishment that typically lasts 20 years in Jordan, with the possibility of time off for good behavior.
According to the court ruling, the incident began on November 4 when a four-vehicle convoy carrying the soldiers approached the King Faisal Airbase in Jordan, eliciting “a low sound of gunfire from a distant and unknown source.” Al-Tawaiha, who was standing guard at the gate, said he opened fire because he believed the vehicles were about to stage an attack. The victims’ relatives have since argued that security camera footage shows al-Tawaiha reloading his gun and aiming at the soldiers, who presented themselves as friendly forces. The court’s ruling appears to confirm this report, arguing that al-Tawaiha “fired a full magazine of ammunition … intending to kill [the soldiers] after it was clear to him who they were.”