AMMAN: A top former Jordanian royal aide was among several suspects arrested on Saturday in a security sweep, as the army cautioned a half-brother of King Abdullah against damaging the country’s security.
Videos posted online showed a heavy police deployment in the Dabouq area near the royal palaces, while the former crown prince Hamzah bin Hussein said he was confined to his home.
In a video obtained from his lawyer, Prince Hamzah said a number of his friends had been arrested, his security removed and his internet and phone lines cut. He denied being part of “any conspiracy or nefarious organisation”, but said the kingdom had “become stymied in corruption, in nepotism, and in misrule” where no-one was allowed to criticise the authorities.
An official news agency named former close aides to the royal family Bassem Awadallah, chief of the royal court in 2007-2008, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid among an unspecified number of suspects arrested. The pair were detained for “security reasons” after a close operation.
Hamzah is the eldest son of late King Hussein and his American wife Queen Noor. He has good relations officially with Abdullah, his half-brother, and is a popular figure close to tribal leaders. Abdullah had appointed Hamzah crown prince in 1999 in line with Hussein’s dying wish, but in 2004 stripped him of the title and gave it to his own eldest son Hussein.
The army denied that Prince Hamzah, who holds no official position, had been detained. “What has been published about the arrest of Prince Hamzah is not true,” said Joint Chiefs of Staff head, Major General Yousef Huneiti. The prince had been “asked to stop some activities that could be used to shake the stability and security of Jordan”.
The Washington Post alleged the former crown prince 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 alleged plot “included at least one other Jordanian royal as well as tribal leaders and members of the country’s security establishment,” the US daily added.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was “closely following” the events in its close regional ally. “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.
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.
The 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, the kingdom has managed to survive the regional upheavals.