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Awni Mutee and reform

Dec 24,2018 - Last updated at Dec 24,2018

Since the general prosecutor has banned the publication of news on the trial of cigarette smuggler Awni Mutee, who had been extradited to Jordan from Turkey, I shall not write any news on the proceedings. But, we can analyse the impact of this important happening on Jordan’s reaction.

The extradition of Mutee was a necessary step to send positive vibes to the angry people of Jordan, but not sufficient to calm the protests.

Inadvertently, this major event only helped whet the appetite of Jordanians to demand the same of other prospective people accused of corruption.

Some of the current government leaders gloated over the incarceration of Mutee, yet very few people credit the government with this accomplishment. The credit goes totally to His Majesty King Abdullah. It seems that Mutee had been captured and jailed in Turkey three weeks before his repatriation to Jordan. He must have been subjected to questioning and cross-examination by officials of both countries, Turkey and Jordan.

A telephone conversation between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the King had taken place before the return of the culprit.

Many questions still loom over this intriguing and unprecedented case in Jordan’s history. First, how much money had Mutee and his aides made in the past 11 years when this operation began? How could it have lasted for so long unnoticed? How was it discovered and its cover blown? How much revenue did the government lose in forgone taxes and fees?

Despite the general prosecutor’s ban on publishing news about the case, all the streets and homes of Jordan pick up this case constantly.

The dynamics of rumours widen the list of high-level people implicated in the case. Moreover, the size of illicit incomes earned from this operation, and the volume of lost government revenues grow larger by the day.

Rumour has it that there is a relatively large number of current and past top officials who are involved in the case, and that more than 321 people are banned from travelling outside Jordan. If these rumours were true, then Jordan would be vis-à-vis a huge political crisis once verdicts are pronounced.

The first aspect of this crisis is how to contain the backlash among the Jordanian people as a result of such a protracted and large corruption case.

The second would enforce, through public pressure, a large-scale hunt for other similar ones, where rumours-cum-facts need to be unearthed, examined and exposed for good or bad.

The last aspect is how we could restore the confidence of people in the executive, legislative and, to some degree, the judiciary branches of government.

To me, the answer is clear. A white revolution should be led by His Majesty along the lines of his seven Discussion Papers, and a convincing reshuffle in government should take place. It is a tall order, but it could be the only way out.

Awni Mutee is not a mere case, he is a societal syndrome.

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