Friday, 16 April, 2021

Jordan 'foils coup attempt involving royal family members, senior

In this image grab taken from a video Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi holds a press briefing at the Prime Ministry on Sunday In this image grab taken from a video Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi holds a press briefing at the Prime Ministry on Sunday
Ginger Lawrence | 04 April, 2021, 22:07

The former crown prince, Hamzah bin Hussein, was ordered to not leave his home while reports of an attempt to overthrow King Abdullah II-the prince's half-brother-are being investigated.

Hamzah is a former crown prince who was stripped of that title by Abdullah in 2004, five years after becoming king following the death of their father, the late King Hussein.

Two people familiar with the situation told Reuters security forces had arrived at his small palace and begun an investigation. He said that satellite internet, his remaining mode of communication, was also under threat.

Prince Hamza said in a video passed to the BBC by his lawyer that Jordan's rulers are corrupt and put their interests above those of the public.

He denied being part of "any conspiracy or nefarious organisation", but said the Hashemite kingdom had "become stymied in corruption, in nepotism, and in misrule" where no-one was allowed to criticise the authorities.

It is rare for a senior member of the ruling family to express such harsh criticism of the government, and any sign of instability in Jordan is likely to raise concerns among the country's Western allies. He is seen as religious and modest, in touch with the common people and similar to his beloved father, the late King Hussein.

Jordan's army chief said on Saturday that Hamzah was not under arrest, but had been asked to stop "some activities that could be used to shake the stability and security of Jordan".

Huneiti said the investigation is ongoing and the results will be announced with full transparency and clarity.

"No one is above the law, and Jordan's security and stability take precedence over any consideration", he said.

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The state news agency said on Saturday that Bassem Awadallah, a US -educated long-time confidant of the king who later became minister of finance and also advisor to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and royal family member Sharif Hassan Ben Zaid had been detained, along with others. Awadallah also previously served as planning minister and finance minister and has private business interests throughout the Gulf region.

The agency did not provide further details or name the others who were arrested. He has good relations officially with Abdullah, his half-brother, and is a popular figure close to tribal leaders.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was "closely following" the events in its close regional ally.

Saudi Arabia said it supports King Abdullah's decision to maintain the security of his country, according to a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency Saturday.

Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi said on Sunday that former Crown Prince Hamzah bin Hussein and his aides were in contact with "foreign parties" about the "right timing to destabilize" Jordanian security. Discontent has risen, with Jordanians increasingly angry over the government's handling of the pandemic and its inability to contain the economic devastation wreaked by strong lockdowns and weekend quarantines.

These people, members of loosely organised groups known as Herak who in addition to their domestic presence represent a vocal opposition based overseas, have in recent weeks called for protests against corruption in a country hard hit by COVID-19's impact on the economy.

Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994.

Stability in Jordan and the status of the king have always been matters of concern throughout the region, particularly during the Trump administration, which gave unprecedented support to Israel and sought to isolate the Palestinians, including by slashing funding for Palestinian refugees.