Jordan says former crown prince liaised with foreign parties in 'malicious plot'

·3-min read

Jordan's deputy prime minister on Sunday said the king's half-brother, Prince Hamza, had liaised with foreign elements over a plot to destabilise the country and had been under investigation for some time.

Ayman Safadi, who is also Jordan's foreign minister, told reporters that the plot had been foiled at the “zero hour".

“Then it was clear they moved from design and planning into action,” Safadi said, adding that some 14 to 16 people are under arrest.

Safadi spoke a day after Prince Hamza, a half-brother of King Abdullah II, was placed under house arrest, in a rare public clash between top members of the long-ruling family.

The unprecedented incident has raised concerns about stability in a country seen as a key Western ally in a volatile region and drawn an outpouring of support for Abdullah.

In a videotaped statement from house arrest, Hamza accused the country's leadership of corruption and incompetence.

Safadi said intelligence agents had been observing the plotters for some time and raised their concerns with the king.

He said Hamza was asked to “stop all these activities and movements that threaten Jordan and its stability", but he refused.

Safadi did not identify the foreign countries allegedly involved in the plot. But he said a longtime senior official who has business ties in several Gulf Arab states, Bassem Awadallah, was involved and had been planning on leaving the country. He also said Awadallah had been trying to secure a place for Hamzah's wife to flee.

Labib Kamhawi, a Jordanian analyst, said Hamza 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 told AP. “This is why we are now witnessing what has happened. This file is now more or less closed.”

Early on Sunday, Hamza’s mother, Queen Noor, expressed sympathy for “innocent victims".

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

US, Gulf powers stand by Abdullah

In his video, Hamza said he was visited early 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 service 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 in which the king had been criticised, though he said he was not accused of joining in the criticism.

Hamza then 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".

He added: “I’m not part of any conspiracy or nefarious organisation or foreign-backed group, as is always the claim here for anyone who speaks out.”

Hamza, a popular figure in Jordan, was stripped of his title as crown prince in 2004, five years after Abdullah become king.

Adding to the kingdom’s embarrassment, his claims contradicted statements by the military chief, Gen. Yousef Huneiti, denying that Hamza was detained or under house arrest.

The rare and damaging spat between royals, however, appeared to have little immediate effect on outside support for Abdullah.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support.”

The state-run Saudi Press Agency said the kingdom’s royal court supported King Abdullah’s efforts “to maintain security and stability and defuse every attempt to influence them".

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates similarly issued statements supporting Abdullah.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz called Jordan a “strategic ally” and dismissed the turmoil as an “internal Jordanian matter".

(FRANCE 24 with AP)