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Jordan accuses Prince Hamzah of ‘malicious plot’ against kingdom

Safadi did not identify the foreign interests allegedly involved in the plot, but he said a longtime senior official who has business ties in several Gulf Arab states, Bassem Ibrahim Awadallah, was involved and had been planning on leaving the country.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II.Credit:AP

He also claimed Awadallah had been trying to secure a plane for Hamzah’s wife to flee. Awadallah and a second senior official, Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, are among the suspects in custody.

“There is a joint co-ordination between Awadallah and the prince, but I will not go into the details,” Safadi said. He declined to say whether the prince would be charged with any crime.

Asked whether Hamzah could face charges, Safadi said that for the time being there were “amicable” attempts to deal with him, but added that the kingdom’s stability and security transcends everything.

“The plot is totally contained. Our security and stability are not shaken,” he said.

The US, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Israel and the United Arab Emirates all issued statements supporting Abdullah.

A ‘red line’ for the king

The swift show of support underscored Jordan’s strategic importance as an island of relative stability in the turbulent region. While the harsh criticism from a popular member of the ruling family could lend support to growing complaints about the kingdom’s poor governance, the king’s tough reaction also illustrated the limits to which he will accept public dissent.

Labib Kamhawi, a Jordanian analyst, said Hamzah had crossed a red line by indicating he might be an alternative to the long-ruling king.

“This is something the king does not accept or tolerate,” he said. “This is why we are now witnessing what has happened. This file is now more or less closed.”

Early on Sunday, Hamzah’s mother, Queen Noor, also weighed in.

“Praying that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this wicked slander. God bless and keep them safe,” she tweeted.

In his video, Hamzah said he was visited early on Saturday by the kingdom’s military chief and told he could not go out, communicate with people or meet with them. He said his phone and internet services were cut and his satellite internet, used to record the message, was being cut off as well.

He said he was told he was being punished for taking part in meetings during which the king had been criticised, though he said he was not accused of joining in the criticism.

Hamzah lashed out at the “ruling system” without mentioning the king by name, saying it had decided “that its personal interests, that its financial interests, that its corruption is more important than the lives and dignity and futures of the 10 million people that live here.”

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Hamzah is a former crown prince who was stripped of that title by Abdullah in 2004, five years after becoming king following the death of their father, the late King Hussein.

Hamzah is a popular figure in Jordan, widely seen as pious and modest. It is extremely rare for senior members of the ruling family to clash so publicly.

Stability in Jordan and the status of the king have long been matters of concern throughout the region, particularly during the Trump US administration, which gave unprecedented support to Israel and sought to isolate the Palestinians, including by slashing funding for Palestinian refugees.

That placed Jordan, which serves as the custodian of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem and is home to a large Palestinian population, in a delicate position.

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Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994. The countries maintain close security ties, but relations have otherwise been tense in recent years, largely due to differences linked to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

With Hamzah remaining under house arrest on Sunday, it was unclear how long the standoff could continue without threatening Abdullah’s international standing.

Adam Coogle, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa for Human Rights Watch, said there has been a slow but steady slide in personal freedoms in Jordan in recent years.

“There’s no question that there’s been a real degradation in the space for critical political conversation and in terms of basic freedoms,” he said. “We’ve reached a real low point.”

Coogle cited the rise of the Islamic State and the warming of ties between Israel and Arab countries during the Trump era. He also pointed to the decline in Jordan’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Unemployment has skyrocketed to some 25 per cent, while the country has been saddled with an influx of some 1 million Syrian refugees.

AP

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