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Bail for Basel Burqan

Mar 24,2019 - Last updated at Mar 24,2019

Some time ago, I chanced to be in a taxi that was jostling its way through a traffic jam, when suddenly a motorist drew alongside us, lowered his window and said to the driver menacingly: “Don’t you know who I am? I can have you thrown in jail. I am a public prosecutor.”

The cabby acted unimpressed and answered: “Go ahead. Have me beheaded. It would relieve me of paying taxes.” But having said this, he hurried away from the alleged prosecutor, whose last words that I heard were: “You will see.”

I do not know whether that motorist was a prosecutor as he claimed, but I was curious to know if a prosecutor can throw someone in jail as easily as he threatened, or whether it was all bluff and bluster. I put the question to some of my lawyer friends and found that there seemed to be unanimity on the point.

Unless I misunderstood their explanation, the public prosecutor has the power to issue a warrant of arrest pending investigations against someone for a period of two weeks, renewable. When this empowerment was formulated, it was omitted to put a limit on the number of times the warrant can be renewed before the detainee is either charged, put on trial or released.

In theory, this measure is meant to be used when there is reason to believe that, unless the suspect is detained, he may flee from justice or commit a serious crime. In practice, however, as I was told, this power can be used to inflict penalty on the suspect, while circumventing the courts.

So, can it be used to punish a cabby for being better than a prosecutor at jostling through traffic? The lawyers all assured me that this cannot happen in Jordan because the prosecutors are all honourable men.

I was reminded of this incident when I read that Basel Burqan was remanded and denied bail. The media, it should be mentioned, disregarded all rules of good news reporting and carried the headline: “Man who spread false rumours regarding radioactive leak arrested.”

This is false information: Basel Burqan is charged with spreading rumours regarding an alleged radioactive leak three months ago; the court, not the media decides whether or not he is culpable. He maintains that the rumours were already circulating, when he commented that if they proved correct, that would be disastrous.

Besides, there is no fear of Burqan committing a crime if, indeed, one was committed, because he had three months during which to do so and he did not. Moreover, he had ample time to abscond if he wanted, and he did not. So why was bail denied?

The justice system receives praise from all around and I do not wish to attack it; I merely recall that even the most honourable of men make errors of judgment, which is why limitations were imposed on their powers. I also recall the fiqh point that correcting one’s fault is an act of virtue.


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