The trial of an Israeli man held in Jordan, who has been charged with illegally crossing into the Hashemite Kingdom, commenced on Monday.
Konstantin Kotov confessed to illegally crossing into Jordan, but pleaded not guilty to a second charge that he possessed drugs with the intent of using them, the Jordanian state-run Petra news agency reported Monday.
Kotov, who Jordan’s authorities have said crossed into its territory on October 29, is being tried by the Jordanian State Security Court.
Judge Ali Mubeedeen said the indictment against Kotov details that a sum of $421 and NIS 27,190, and a marijuana joint, were found in a bag he was carrying after he crossed the border.
Mubeedeen quoted Kotov, who spoke through a translator, as saying that he has used marijuana in Israel, where he claimed it was legal.
While Israel permits Israelis with specific illnesses to use medical marijuana, it bars recreational use.
— Jordan News Agency (@Petranews) December 2, 2019
Later in the court session, Mubeedeen told Kotov’s translator: “He must understand something. It does not matter to me what the situation with drugs are in the State of Israel. What matters to me — for the sake of issuing a sentence — is the situation with drugs in Jordan.”
Mubeedeen also quoted Kotov as saying he crossed into Jordan by foot after one of his friends drove him to the border area.
Pictures posted on Jordanian news site showed the Israeli citizen standing in a cage at the State Security Court, surrounded by security forces.
A Human Rights Watch report in 2012 described the State Security Court as not being “independent of the executive.” It also said its panels usually consist of two military judges and one civilian.
Mubeedeen added that the court would reconvene on Tuesday to hear from the prosecution’s witnesses.
The Jordanian state-funded Al Mamlaka TV station said no lawyer for Kotov was present at Monday’s hearing.
Nizar Amer, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, did not respond to an inquiry as to whether a lawyer was defending Kotov.
The Foreign Ministry, however, said in a statement on Sunday that it was following his situation and was in touch with him, his family, and Jordanian authorities.
It also said that Israel’s consul general in Jordan visited him at a detention facility.
Jordan is one of two Arab states to maintain a peace treaty and formal diplomatic relations with Israel, but ties have recently been tense.
Jordanian King Abdullah II said in November that his country’s relations with Israel were at an all-time low.
“Part of it is because of the Israeli domestic matters,” Abdullah said at an event in New York City hosted by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a US think tank. He was apparently referring to the political gridlock in Jerusalem which could lead to a third election in less than a year. “We are hoping Israel will decide its future — whether it is in the next several weeks or three months.”
An edited video of his remarks were posted on the Royal Hashemite Court’s YouTube page on November 22.
Abdullah added that “the problems that we have had with Israel [are] bilateral… Now, I hope, whatever happens in Israel over the next two or three months, we can get back to talking to each other on simple issues that we haven’t been able to talk about for the past two years.”