The arrest of a popular prince sends a chilling message to a frustrated public. On Monday the crisis was adverted. Jordan’s Prince Hamzah pledged allegiance to the king as the monarch accepted mediation over a rift.
Jordan (6/4 -50). The government has accused Hamzah, an ex-crown prince and half-brother of King Abdullah II, of a “wicked” plot and involvement in a seditious conspiracy to “destabilize the kingdom’s security”.
Hamzah, detained along with at least 20 others, had earlier struck a defiant tone saying he had been placed under house arrest inside his Amman palace, but insisting he would not obey orders restricting his movement.
The intelligence official described the plan as “well-organized” and said some of the plotters appeared to have “foreign ties,” though he did not elaborate on that point.
The arrests of other officials were reported by Jordanian news outlets. Among them was Sharif Hasan, who also is a member of the royal family, and Bassem Awadullah, a former senior official in Jordan’s Royal Hashemite Court.
An investment banker and CEO of Tomoh Advisory, a consultant firm based in Dubai, Awadullah had also served as special Jordanian representative to the Saudi government, and held Jordanian and Saudi passports, the intelligence official said.
Those arrested are reported to include people close to the former crown prince – including his office manager, bodyguards, and palace manager – in addition to a number of former state officials.
But in an apparent easing of the palace turmoil, the 41-year-old prince pledged his backing to King Abdullah.
“I will remain … faithful to the legacy of my ancestors, walking on their path, loyal to their path and their message and to His Majesty,” he said in a signed letter, quoted by the palace.
“I will always be ready to help and support His Majesty the King and his Crown Prince,” he is quoted as writing.
Hamzah’s statement came shortly after the palace said Abdullah had agreed to enter mediation “to handle the question of Prince Hamzah within the framework of the Hashemite (ruling) family”.
The job of mediator was handed to his uncle, Prince Hassan, himself a former heir to the throne.
Hamzah – whom Abdullah stripped of the title of crown prince in 2004 – has emerged as a vocal critic, accusing Jordan‘s leadership of corruption, nepotism and authoritarian rule.
In a video he sent to the BBC on Saturday, he lashed out at “incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last 15 to 20 years and has been getting worse”.
“No-one is able to speak or express opinion on anything without being bullied, arrested, harassed and threatened,” he charged.
Hamzah denied being involved in any “nefarious” plot, but said he had his phone and internet cut by Jordan’s armed forces chief-of-staff, General Youssef Huneiti.
In the recording released Sunday, Hamzah said: “When the head of the joint chiefs of staff comes and tells you this … I think it’s kind of unacceptable”.
“I recorded what he said and sent it to my friends abroad and to my family, in case anything happens.”
Abdullah, 59, named Hamzah crown prince in 1999, in line with their father’s dying wish, but later stripped him of the title and named his own son Prince Hussein heir to the throne.
Hamzah’s mother, American-born Queen Noor, defended her son, tweeting that she was “praying that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this wicked slander”.
On Tuesday, Jordan banned all news outlets and social media users on Tuesday from publishing any content related to Hamzah.
“To safeguard the secrecy of the investigations being undertaken by the security services in relation to His Highness Prince Hamzah bin Hussain and others, Amman’s public prosecutor has decided to ban the publication of everything related to the investigations at this stage,” the state news agency reported.
Analyst Ahmad Awad said the turbulent events were “a first” for Jordan. “This is the beginning of a crisis and not the end,” said the head of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics research institute in Amman.
“This shows that there is a need for political, economic and democratic reforms.” The crisis has laid bare divisions in a country usually seen as a bulwark of stability in the Middle East. So far the press pundits.
However, by Monday a reversal of statements were sent to the Associated Press paints a different picture.
Statement sent to The Associated Press from Malik R. Dahlan, a professional mediator and friend of the royal family who is a confidant of Hamzah.
Dahlan is the principal of the Institution Quraysh for Law & Policy, with which Hamzah is associated:
“Mediation by Prince el-Hassan bin Talal, the Dean of the Hashemite Royal Family today have been successful and I expect a resolution shortly.
“This regrettable incident was the result of the clumsy actions of a senior security official and misrepresentation by a government official. It should have remained a family matter.
“The Royal Hashemite family has a long history and tradition of mediation, which is one of the many reasons for its formidable resilience and popularity.
“This moment can be seen as a pressure valve moment, and the King, in his wisdom, is using this opportunity to bring the family together, uphold the rule of law and resolve this matter with the dignity and the symbolism that it deserves. It is also a reminder for the international community to stand by the Hashemites and commend their honorable stance to address the dire economic situation of the Jordanian people and vulnerable refugee communities during these difficult circumstances.
“Prince Hamzah has a lot to offer the Kingdom and the Arab World– and could play a positive role working in a space where his passion for climate action would bring about change.”
The response from Washington, major Gulf powers, Egypt and the Arab League have all pledged support for Abdullah, and a similar message came from Russia on Monday. US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday reiterated Washington’s backing of Abdullah.
“We value his integrity, his vision,” Price told reporters. “The king has our full support.”
Jordan has only about 10 million people, but it has an outsized strategic importance in a turbulent region.
It borders Israel and the occupied West Bank, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, hosts US troops and is home to millions of exiled Palestinians and more than half a million Syrian refugees.
The Washington Post had first reported Saturday that Hamzah had been “placed under restriction” amid a probe into an alleged plot. “This sedition was nipped in the bud,” Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Sunday, charging the plotters had linked up with foreign parties.
Safadi declined to identify the alleged foreign parties, but he said an individual “with links to foreign intelligence services” had offered to fly Hamzah’s wife out of the country.
An Israeli who said he is a close friend of Hamzah, Roy Shaposhnik, said he had “extended an invitation for the prince’s wife and children to stay at his home in Europe”.
He said he had made “this benign, humanitarian” offer after the prince had voiced “concerns about the safety of his family”.
Shaposhnik stressed he does not work for any intelligence agency and that he had “no knowledge of, or any involvement with” the events in Jordan.
The military chief, Huneiti, said Monday the armed forces and security agencies had “the capacity, competence and professionalism” needed “to face … any attempt to undermine the security of the homeland”.
Barah Mikail, director of consulting firm Stractegia, said Jordan had been “quick in reassuring” the international community that “the situation is under control”.
The government of Jordan on Sunday accused former crown prince Hamzeh bin Hussein and several of his associates of cooperating with foreign entities to pursue a long-term plot to destabilize the kingdom, a day after arrests targeted up to 20 high-level officials.
“These were efforts that threatened Jordan’s security and stability, and these efforts were foiled,” Deputy Prime Minister Ayman al-Safadi said.
In a televised news conference, Safadi said extensive investigations carried out by Jordan’s security forces concluded that Hamzeh, the half brother of King Abdullah II; Sharif Hasan, a member of the royal family; and Bassem Awadullah, a former senior official in the royal court and special Jordanian representative to the Saudi government, had engaged in activities that amounted to “promoting sedition.”
The activities included cultivating relationships with members of the Jordanian opposition abroad. There was also evidence of a person with foreign ties offering services to Hamzeh’s wife, including the immediate use of a private jet to leave Jordan, Safadi said.