Jordan ex-crown prince says he’s being held under house arrest, denies coup plot

As top officials are arrested, Hamzah bin Hussein issues video accusing the monarchy of corruption, stifling dissent; says his internet, phones cut

Jordan's former Crown Prince Hamzah bin Hussein (screenshot via BBC)
Jordan's former Crown Prince Hamzah bin Hussein (screenshot via BBC)

The half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Saturday said he’s been confined to his house and his internet and phones have been cut, following reports of an alleged coup attempt that saw the arrest of former senior officials close to the ruling monarchy.

Jordan’s Joint Chiefs of Staff head, Major General Yousef Huneiti, denied media reports that Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, who holds no official position, had been arrested. He said the former crown prince had been “asked to stop some activities that could be used to shake the stability and security of Jordan.”

In a video aired by the BBC, however, Hamzah said he was ordered to remain in his home. He denied being part of “any conspiracy, or nefarious organization or foreign-backed group,” as he issued scathing criticism of the kingdom’s quashing of dissent.

“I had a visit from chief of general staff of the Jordanian armed forces this morning in which he informed me that I was not allowed to go out, to communicate with people or to meet with them because in the meetings that I had been present in or on social media relating to visits that I had made, there had been criticism of the government or the king,” he said, adding that he was not personally accused of being the critic.

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

“Since then a number of… my friends have been arrested, my security has been removed and the internet and phone lines have been cut. This is my last communication, satellite internet that I have, and I’ve been informed by the company that they’re instructed to cut it so it may be the last time I’m able to communicate.”

“I wanted to make this recording so that it’s clear to the world that what you see and hear in terms of the official line is not a reflection of the realities on the ground. Unfortunately, this country has become stymied in nepotism, in corruption, and in misrule and the result has been the destruction or the loss of hope that is apparent in pretty much every Jordanian,” he said.

Hamzah said he told the head of the Jordanian Joint Chiefs of Staff, who arrived at his home, that, “I am not the person responsible for the breakdown in governance, the corruption and for the incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last 15 to 20 years and has been getting worse… And I am not responsible for the lack of faith people have in their institutions.

“It has reached a point where no one is able to speak or express opinion on anything without being bullied, arrested, harassed and threatened,” he said.

Hamzah is the eldest son of late King Hussein and his American wife Queen Noor. He has good relations officially with Abdullah and is a popular figure close to tribal leaders.

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 had appointed his half-brother Hamzah crown prince in line with Hussein’s dying wish, but in 2004 stripped him of the title and gave it to his own eldest son Hussein.

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

Videos posted online Saturday showed a heavy police deployment in the Dabouq area near the royal palaces as the Washington Post said Hamzah was “placed under restriction” as part of a probe into an alleged plot to unseat the king.

“The move followed the discovery of what palace officials described as a complex and far-reaching plot,” it said, quoting a senior Middle East intelligence official.

The Washington Post said the alleged plot “included at least one other Jordanian royal as well as tribal leaders and members of the country’s security establishment.”

The United States and Saudi Arabia on Saturday expressed support for Jordan’s King Abdullah II. US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was “closely following” the reports on the arrests of top Jordanian officials.

“We are… in touch with Jordanian officials. King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support,” he said.

Neighboring Saudi Arabia reacted swiftly to developments in Amman.

“The kingdom stresses its full support for the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan… and for the decisions and measures taken by King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Hussein to safeguard security and stability,” it said.

People stand on the side as Jordan’s King Abdullah II arrives in his vehicle at a hospital in the town of Salt, northwest of the capital, on March 13, 2021 (Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP)

A top former Jordanian royal aide was among several suspects arrested Saturday.

Official news agency Petra named Bassem Awadallah, chief of the royal court in 2007-2008, and Sherif Hassan bin Zaid among an unspecified number of suspects arrested.

Sherif is a title given to those close to the royal family in Jordan.

The pair were detained for “security reasons” after a “close” operation, Petra said, quoting a security source.

Awadallah, a former finance and planning minister educated in the United States, was close to the king but has also been a controversial figure in Jordan.

Before becoming royal court chief in 2007, he was head of the king’s cabinet in 2006.

He had been a rising figure in Jordan playing a key role in pushing for economic reforms in the cash-strapped country until he resigned in 2008.

Awadallah stepped down after coming under public criticism over alleged interference in controversial political and economic issues.

Saturday’s security sweep comes as Jordan prepares to mark 100 years since the new kingdom then named Transjordan was established alongside Palestine under British mandate.

It declared independence in 1946, and despite having little oil wealth, severely lacking water and repeatedly being rocked by wars on its borders, Jordan has survived.

But the centenary will be muted.

Abdullah took the throne in 1999, on the death of his father Hussein, and has used the mottos “Jordan first” and “We are all Jordanians” to cement a national identity.

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