Jordan nabs ex-palace officials for ‘security reasons,’ denies coup plot report

Amman says former crown prince Hamzah was not arrested, but was issued warning; Jordan reportedly tells Israel situation is ‘under control’

Illustrative: Jordanian soldiers in the capital Amman on March 18, 2020, as Jordan takes measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)
Illustrative: Jordanian soldiers in the capital Amman on March 18, 2020, as Jordan takes measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)

Jordan’s state news agency said Saturday evening that two former senior palace officials “and others” have been arrested for “security reasons.”

The Petra news agency denied initial reports that said Prince Hamzah, the half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, had been detained or placed under house arrest. The Washington Post had quoted an unnamed Middle East intelligence official claiming Hamzeh and 20 others had been arrested for allegedly plotting a coup.

Hamzah was warned, however, to cease “movements and activities that are used to target” the security and stability of Jordan, according to Petra. The request was made as part of an investigation by security services, Petra said.

The chief of staff of Jordan’s armed forces, Maj. Gen. Yousef Huneiti, said the investigation was ongoing and that all measures have been lawful and followed extensive probes.

“No one is above the law,” he said, adding, “Jordan’s security and stability take precedence over any consideration.”

Jordan’s Prince Hamzah bin Hussein (Abd Alrahman Wreikat / Wikipedia)

The Petra report said Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, the former royal envoy to Saudi Arabia, and Bassem Ibrahim Awadallah, the former head of the royal court, were detained. Awadallah also previously served as planning minister and finance minister.

The agency did not provide further details or name the others who were arrested.

Jordan informed Israel “the situation is under control” and there was no danger to the stability of the Hashemite kingdom, the Walla news site reported.

The message was relayed by Jordanian officials to their Israeli counterparts, the report said.

Jordan’s Sunni allies in the region voiced support for the monarchy.

A statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency said Riyadh fully backs the measures taken by Abdullah to ensure stability and security in the Hashemite kingdom.

Bahrain also voiced its support for Jordan, as did Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, “We are closely following the reports and in touch with Jordanian officials. King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support.”

Jordan has long been a key Western ally and an island of stability in a turbulent region. It borders Israel, the West Bank, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II gives a speech during the inauguration of the 19th Parliament’s non-ordinary session, in Amman, Jordan, December 10, 2020. (Yousef Allan/The Royal Hashemite Court via AP)

Abdullah has ruled Jordan since the 1999 death of his father, King Hussein, who ruled the country for close to a half-century. Abdullah has cultivated close relations with US and other Western leaders over the years, and Jordan was a key ally in the war against the Islamic State group.

Abdullah stripped his half-brother Hamzah of his title as crown prince in 2004, saying he had decided to “free” him from the “constraints of the position” in order to allow him to take on other responsibilities. The move was seen at the time as part of Abdullah’s consolidation of power five years after the succession.

The current crown prince is Abdullah’s oldest son, Hussein, who is 26.

Jordan’s ruling family traces its lineage back to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Abdullah had chosen Hamzah as his crown prince hours after their father died of cancer in February 1999. The designation was out of respect for King Hussein, who was known to have favored Hamzah the most among his 11 children from four marriages.

Abdullah and Hamzah have not displayed any open rivalry over the years.

Jordan’s economy has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. Jordan, with a population of around 10 million, also hosts more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.

Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994, but relations have been tense in recent years, including in past weeks, partially due to differences linked to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

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