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Jordan: King Abdullah's uncle given 18-year sentence in absentia

Walid al-Kurdi was tried over corruption practices during his tenure as CEO and chairman of the Jordan Phosphate Mines company
King Abdullah II of Jordan leave a press conference following talks at the Chancellery in Berlin, 15 March 2022 (AFP)

Walid al-Kurdi, the uncle of Jordan's king, was sentenced on Wednesday to 18 years of hard labour and fined $268m by a Jordanian court.

Kurdi, 77, is married to King Abdullah's aunt Princess Basma bint Talal. He was tried in absentia on corruption charges relating to his tenure as CEO and chairman of the state-owned mining company Jordan Phosphate Mines (JPMC).

In June 2013, with Kurdi living in self-imposed exile in London, a Jordanian court sentenced him to 37 and a half years of hard labour, imposed a $378.8m fine, and froze his assets in the country.

On Wednesday, a court in Amman heard 27 witnesses give evidence about investment contracts for Shidiya mine, near the city of Maan. Kurdi was accused of corruption and abusing his position as CEO and chairman. 

The court also sentenced four directors of the mining company to three months each and imposed a fine of 1,000 Jordanian dinars ($1,410), local media reported

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Jordan Phosphate Mines is one of the world's largest suppliers of phosphate.

Years of pursuit

Over the years, Jordanian authorities have continued to pursue Kurdi from afar, repeatedly - and unsuccessfully - asking the UK to hand him over and even issuing an Interpol red notice in 2017.

Kurdi's name has resurfaced over the past few years during widespread protests in Jordan over economic policies and rampant corruption, with demonstrators calling for his imprisonment.

The court ruling comes weeks after former crown prince Hamzah bin Hussein renounced his royal title in early April.

Hamzah had been in a tit-for-tat row with his brother King Abdullah, accusing the monarch of ineptitude in tackling corruption in the country.

Last year, Hamzah was put under house arrest after Jordanian authorities foiled an attempt to destabilise the country. Eighteen suspects were arrested then, including former royal court chief Bassem Awadallah.

Hamzah later apologised in a public letter to King Abdullah for his actions and pledged allegiance to the constitution.

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