Jordan; Military Threatens King's Step-Brother

UMMATIMES - Jordan's military has told King Abdullah's half-brother Prince Hamzah bin Hussein to stop actions aimed at "security and stability", which people with knowledge of the matter say could be linked to a plot to destabilize the country.

In a statement published by the state news agency, the military said the warning to Prince Hamza was part of a broader and ongoing security investigation in which a former minister, junior members of the royal family and others who were not identified were detained.

Prince Hamzah said in a video recording that he was under house arrest and had been told to stay at home and not contact anyone.

Speaking in English in the video, which his lawyer told the BBC, he said he was not part of a foreign conspiracy and denounced the ruling system as corrupt.

"The welfare of (Jordan) is placed second by a system of government which has decided that self-interest, financial interest, that corruption is more important than the life and dignity and future of the ten million people who live here," he said.

Earlier, military chief Yusef Huneity denied reports that the prince had been arrested but said he was told to "stop exploited activities to target Jordan's security and stability".

Two people with knowledge of the situation told Reuters that security forces had arrived at his small palace and started an investigation. King Abdullah removed Prince Hamza as heir to the throne in 2004 in a move that consolidated his rule.

The Washington Post said Jordanian authorities detained the former crown prince and arrested nearly 20 others after what officials described as a "threat to the stability of the country".

A former US official with knowledge of the events in Jordan said that the plot, which he described as credible and broad-based but unlikely to occur, did not involve a "physical coup". Instead, he said, those involved were planning to push through what would appear to be a "popular uprising with the masses on the streets" with tribal backing.

Jordan will investigate whether there was any foreign party in the plot, the former US official said.

Prince Hamza is not seen as a major threat to the Jordanian monarchy and has been marginalized for years, but the act against him is the first incident involving a close member of the royal family since King Abdullah took the throne.

The authorities are becoming increasingly concerned with his efforts to build relationships with disgruntled figures in powerful tribes.

Known as the Herak group in recent weeks, they have called for protests against the economy's corruption in the country affected by COVID-19, pushing unemployment to its highest levels and deepening poverty. Authorities have cracked down on several demonstrations, detaining dozens of people.

The tribes that dominated the security forces formed the foundation of support for the royal monarchy of the Hashim family.

The state news agency said Bassem Awadallah, a longtime confidant of the US-educated king who later became finance minister and adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Sharif Hassan Ben Zaid, a member of the royal family, are being detained along with other unidentified figures.

"The US government knows that Bassam Awadullah works for MBS (Mohammed bin Salman). Any shrewd observer would say if someone this close to MBS was involved, he should know," the former US official said.

The Saudi royal court voiced "full support" for King Abdullah and all the decisions he took to maintain security and stability. Egypt, Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar also supported it. The US State Department said the king was a "key partner" and had its full support.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment. Arrests of high-ranking officials and members of the royal family are rare in Jordan, which is seen as one of the most stable countries in the Arab world.

Prince Hamzah, whom his mother Queen Noor had groomed to succeed his late father King Hussein, has been pushed into the political wilderness since he was sacked as crown prince.

Several opposition figures had gathered around him, an act of displeasure to the king, said the official with knowledge of the situation.

Abdullah succeeded his father King Hussein, who ruled Jordan for nearly five decades. Jordan's Hashim dynasty tradition under the 1952 constitution gives succession to the eldest son but the king retains the option of nominating a brother.

King Abdullah has succeeded in bringing political stability to the country and gaining status as a prominent Arab leader whose message of moderation resonates, especially in Western forums.

Awadallah, who was the driving force behind economic reforms before he stepped down as chairman of the royal court in 2008, has long faced stiff resistance from an old bodyguard and a entrenched bureaucracy that flourished over the years over government benefits.

Jordan's powerful intelligence agency, with widespread influence in public life, has played a bigger public role since the enactment of emergency laws at the start of last year's coronavirus pandemic, which civil groups say violates civil and political rights.

Jordanian riot police last month broke up protests in Amman and other cities called to commemorate 10 years of pro-democracy Arab Spring demonstrations, and authorities detained dozens of activists, witnesses said.