A Jordanian criminal court sentenced the kingdom’s ex-intelligence chief on Sunday to 13 years and three months in prison for embezzlement of public funds, money laundering and abuse of office.

It was the harshest sentence in years against such a high-profile personality in Jordan.

Presiding judge Nashaat Akhras also demanded in court that defendant Mohammed al-Dahabi pay 21 million Jordanian dinars ($29.6 million) in fines to the state and return money he allegedly laundered and embezzled during his 2005-2008 tenure as head of Jordanian intelligence. The judge said the amount is estimated at 24 million dinars ($34 million).

“You deserve the harshest punishment for being a traitor to the people who trusted you with a government position and state funds,” judge Akhras told the ex-official. An anxious-looking Mr Al-Dahabi stood silently in the dock, wearing a dark blue suit, as the verdict was read out.

Mr Al-Dahabi’s lawyer Mahmoud Kilani said he will appeal the verdict.

Mr Al-Dahabi was arrested in February, when inspectors from the Central Bank of Jordan suspected transactions worth millions of dollars had gone through his bank account.

The rare case against a senior official is meant to show Jordan’s seriousness in efforts to tackle graft and corruption a demand voiced in recent street protests.

In 2003, Jordan sentenced another ex-intelligence chief to eight years in jail for forgery of state documents and abuse of office. Sameeh al-Batikhi was released after serving his prison term.

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