Ex-aide jailed over Jordan royal coup hospitalized following hunger strike

Dual Jordanian-American citizen Bassem Awadallah, imprisoned for allegedly helping king’s half-brother plot takeover, suffering low sugar levels from three-week fast, lawyer says

Bassem Awadallah, then-director of the Office of King Abdullah II of Jordan, attends a celebration to mark Independence Day, in Amman, Jordan, on May 25, 2008. (Nader Daoud/AP)
Bassem Awadallah, then-director of the Office of King Abdullah II of Jordan, attends a celebration to mark Independence Day, in Amman, Jordan, on May 25, 2008. (Nader Daoud/AP)

AP — A former top Jordanian official imprisoned in an alleged plot against the Western-allied monarchy was rushed to the hospital over the weekend after a three-week hunger strike, the man’s American lawyer said Monday.

Bassem Awadallah, who is a dual Jordanian-American citizen, was suffering from low blood pressure and sugar levels when he was hospitalized Saturday, his representatives said.

They said he was given glucose intravenously but refused further intervention once his condition stabilized. He has since returned to prison and remains on his hunger strike.

“My client’s life remains in danger as his health declines daily,” said Michael J. Sullivan, Awadallah’s attorney.

He said Awadallah’s family has urged the US government to “take immediate action” to secure his release and holds Jordan’s King Abdullah II responsible for the harm to Awadallah.

A Jordanian security official called the claims of a hunger strike “inaccurate,” saying Awadallah has been drinking liquids regularly.

“He was hospitalized at the recommendation of the medical team and later discharged after receiving the necessary treatment,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under security guidelines. “He is now in good condition.”

Officers stand guard outside Jordan’s State Security Court in Amman, where two former officials, accused of helping Jordanian Prince Hamzah try to overthrow his half-brother King Abdullah II, await a verdict in their trial, on July 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh, File)

The official said there was no obligation for Jordanian officials to notify the American Embassy because Awadallah is a Jordanian “first and foremost.” But he said that Awadallah is entitled to meet with a US consular representative, who visited him on Monday.

The US Embassy in Jordan had no immediate comment.

Jordan is a close Western ally that hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees and has long been seen as an island of stability in a volatile region. But the rare palace feud exposed deep-rooted economic and social challenges in the country, which borders Israel, the West Bank, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Awadallah, who once served as a top adviser to the king, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family, were found guilty of sedition and incitement two years ago and sentenced to 15 years in prison. They were alleged to have conspired with Prince Hamzah, the king’s half-brother, and to have sought foreign assistance in a plot against Abdullah.

The convictions took place following a closed trial that lasted just six sessions in a military court. The court denied requests by defense lawyers to call witnesses, and prosecutors shared only purported transcripts, but not original audio recordings, from surveillance of the alleged plotters.

Awadallah’s representatives have said the trial lacked due process and that Awadallah has endured inhumane conditions. Jordan denies the allegations, saying his treatment has been “in accordance with international conventions and legal standards.”

Prince Hamzah Bin Al-Hussein, right, and Prince Hashem Bin Al-Hussein, left, half brothers of King Abdullah II of Jordan, attend the opening of the parliament in Amman, Jordan, November 28, 2006. (AP Photo/Mohammad abu Ghosh, File)

Hamzah was placed under house arrest in April 2021 for his alleged role in the plot. At the time, he said he was being punished for speaking out against official corruption.

He apologized to the king a year ago, according to the Royal Court, but the following month, he formally relinquished his princely title to protest the “current approaches, policies and methods of our institutions.”

Last May, the king placed Hamzah back under house arrest, citing his half-brother’s “erratic behavior and aspirations.”

Abdullah and Hamzah are sons of King Hussein, who ruled Jordan for nearly half a century before his death in 1999. Abdullah appointed Hamzah as crown prince upon his succession but stripped him of the title in 2004.

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