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Jordanians plead not guilty in royal coup attempt trial

A former top adviser to King Abdullah II and a relative of the monarch has pleaded not guilty to sedition and incitement charges, a defense lawyer said.

The highly anticipated trial is being held under tight security and was closed to the media.

The charges revolve around an unprecedented public rift in the traditionally discreet royal family. The defendants are accused of conspiring with a senior royal — Prince Hamzah, a half-brother of the king — to foment unrest against the monarch while soliciting foreign help.

Hamzah is not facing charges, with the king having said the royal family is handling the matter privately. Yet he is the central figure in the case, and defense attorneys said they plan to call him to the stand.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (left) laughs with his brother, then-crown prince Hamzah (right), on April 2, 2001, shortly before the Jordanian monarch embarked on a tour of the United States. (AP Photo/ Yousef Allan/File)

The indictment, read in court Monday, alleges Hamzah was driven by personal ambition and determined to become king. It says the prince and the two defendants — Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a royal, and Bassem Awadallah, a former royal adviser — conspired to stir discontent.

They are the most senior establishment figures to appear before the security court, which typically goes after drug offenders or suspected militants.

Defense lawyer Mohammad Afeef, who represents Awadallah, tells journalists waiting outside the security court for hours Monday that the court heard two prosecution witnesses, and that another session would be held Tuesday.

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