Jordan's ex-spy chief jailed for corruption

A woman holds up a banner saying "No to an expired government" at a protest demanding political reforms in Amman (4 May 2012) Opposition protesters have been taking to the streets to call for an end to corruption in Jordan

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Jordan's former intelligence chief has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for corruption.

Mohammed al-Dahabi, who was head of the intelligence service from 2005 to 2008, was accused of embezzling public funds, money laundering and abuse of office.

The court in Amman also fined him nearly $30m (£19m).

Jordan's leaders have come under pressure in recent months from street protesters demanding that corruption be tackled.

The lengthy sentence for such a high-profile figure is meant to show Jordanians that the authorities are serious about tackling the issue, observers say.

"You deserve the harshest punishment for being a traitor to the people who trusted you with a government position and state funds," judge Nashaat Akhras told Dahabi.

As well as the $30m fine, the court has also ordered him to return the $34m (£21m) he allegedly laundered and embezzled during his time in office.

Jordan's intelligence agency is considered among the best in the Middle East and Dahabi was once one of the country's most feared officials, the BBC's Dale Gavlak reports from Amman.

He was arrested in February after the Central Bank of Jordan became suspicious of the large transactions going through his account.

Dahabi, the brother of former Prime Minister Nader al-Dahabi, denied the charges and claimed he was being turned into a scapegoat.

Rights activists claim government corruption is widespread but growing complaints by ordinary Jordanians are now beginning to have an impact, our correspondent says.

King Abdullah dissolved parliament last month in order to pave the way for early elections in response to growing calls for political reform and the end to corruption.

The king has said he is serious about reform, but one of his key opponents, the Muslim Brotherhood, is calling for the monarch's powers to be curtailed.

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