Israeli who illegally crossed into Jordan sentenced to 4 months in prison

Judge indicates taking into account time served, Konstantin Kotov, who was nabbed with drugs on him, will only spend another 1.5 months behind bars

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Judge Ali Mubedeen reading Jordan's State Security Court's ruling against Israeli citizen Konstantin Kotov on January 13, 2020. (Screenshot: Al Mamlaka TV)
Judge Ali Mubedeen reading Jordan's State Security Court's ruling against Israeli citizen Konstantin Kotov on January 13, 2020. (Screenshot: Al Mamlaka TV)

A Jordanian court sentenced an Israeli citizen on Monday to four months in prison and fined him 1,000 dinars on charges of illegally crossing into Jordan and possessing drugs with intent of using them.

Jordanian State Security Court judge Ali Mubeedeen indicated that Konstantin Kotov would only be required to serve another approximately one and a half months because he has already spent some 75 days in Jordanian custody.

Kotov confessed in December to illegally crossing into Jordan but pleaded not guilty to possessing drugs with intent of using them, Jordanian state-run media reported at the time.

Jordanian authorities have said he crossed into northern Jordan on October 29, 2019, carrying a marijuana joint and $421 and NIS 27,190 in cash.

Mubedeen said on Monday that the Israeli national argued that he was not guilty of the drug-related offense because he uses marijuana in Israel, which he incorrectly claimed is legal in its territory.

The judge, however, did not accept Kotov’s argument, quoting the Jordanian penal code: “Ignorance of the law is not considered to be a pretext for one perpetrating any crime.”

While Israel permits Israelis with specific illnesses to use medical marijuana, it bars recreational use and fines offenders.

Mubedeen added that the court sentenced Kotov to four months in prison for illegally crossing into Jordan and three months for possessing drugs with intent of using them, but ultimately decided that only the former part of the ruling would be implemented.

A Jordanian legal source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Jordan’s judicial system allows for the State Security Court to rule that “only the harsher of the two punishments be enforced.”

While the judge was speaking, Kotov was seen in a cage on the side of the room, surrounded by security forces.

Mubedeen said that Kotov, from Kiryat Yam near Haifa, had been wanted by Israeli authorities based on information that he was growing marijuana in his home.

Israeli Konstantin Kotov stands in the defendant’s cage during an appearance before a state security court where he was charged with illegally entering the country and possessing drugs, in Amman, Jordan, December 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

In October, sources in the Foreign Ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Kotov was attempting to evade Israeli authorities since he is wanted for drug-related offenses.

The judge also said that Kotov had wanted to apply for asylum in Russia through the Russian Embassy in Amman.

“The suspect was firmly determined to leave his residence on the Israeli side and illegally enter the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s territories to achieve that goal,” he said.

The court’s sentence can be appealed.

“Israel’s embassy in Jordan is in continuous contact with authorities about his case,” Lior Haiat, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said. “The Israeli consul-general in Amman has visited Kotov several times and made sure he is receiving his rights. The Foreign Ministry will continue to follow the proceedings until Kotov is released.”

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.

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 an interview Monday that ties with Israel had been “on pause,” blaming it on political deadlock in Jerusalem.

He also recently described relations as being at an all-time low.

In October 2019, Jordan briefly recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv to protest Israel’s arrest of its two nationals, who were never charged. According to the Shin Bet security service, the two were suspected of involvement in “severe security offenses.” They were eventually released and returned to Jordan as part of a diplomatic deal.

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