The Jordanian prince says he’s locked up and is thrashing the authorities

Updated Saturday, April 3, 2021 | 3:32 pm

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) –

The half-brother of Jordanian King Abdullah II said on Saturday he was placed under house arrest, accusing the country’s “ruling system” of incompetence and corruption, exposing a rare chasm within the ruling monarchy of a close Western ally.

Prince Hamzah’s videotaped statement came after the country’s official news agency reported that two former senior officials and other suspects had been arrested on “security grounds” despite authorities denying Hamzah had been arrested or placed under house arrest .

In a video posted by British Broadcasting Corp. Hamzah – a former crown prince whose title was revoked in 2004 – said he was visited early Saturday by the country’s military chief and said he was not allowed to go out, communicate with or meet people.

He said his security detail had been removed and his phone and internet service had been shut down. He said he was talking on satellite internet and expected that service to be discontinued as well. The BBC said it received the statement from Hamzah’s attorney.

Hamzah said he was informed that he had been punished for attending meetings criticizing the king, although he was not accused of joining the criticism.

Then he pounded on the “ruling system” without mentioning the king’s name, saying that it had decided “that its personal interests, financial interests, and corruption are more important than the life, dignity and future of the 10th Millions of people.” who live here. ”

“I’m not part of any conspiracy, shameful organization, or foreign-backed group as they always claim here for anyone who speaks out,” he said. “There are members of this family who still love and care for this country.” (his people) and will put them above everything. “

“Apparently this is a crime worthy of isolation, threat and foreclosure,” he added.

It is rare for a senior member of the ruling family to voice such harsh criticism of the government, and any sign of instability in Jordan is likely to cause concern among the country’s western allies.

Hamzah is a popular character in Jordan. He is considered religious and humble, in contact with the common people and similar to his beloved father, the late King Hussein. He has criticized the government in the past, accusing officials of “failed management” after they passed an income tax law in 2018.

The country’s top general had previously denied that Hamzah was imprisoned or under house arrest. Hamzah has been asked to “stop some movements and activities that are being used to combat the security and stability of Jordan,” General Yousef Huneiti was quoted as saying by the official Petra news agency.

He said an investigation was still ongoing and the results would be released “in a transparent and clear manner”.

“Nobody is above the law and Jordan’s security and stability are paramount,” he added.

Petra had previously reported that Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family, and Bassem Ibrahim Awadallah, a former head of the royal court, had been arrested. Awadallah was also previously Minister of Planning and Finance Minister and has private business interests throughout the Gulf region.

The agency did not provide any further information or named the other detainees.

Abdullah has ruled Jordan since the death of his father, King Hussein, who ruled the country for almost half a century. Abdullah has maintained close ties with the US and other Western leaders over the years, and Jordan was a key ally in the war against the Islamic state group. The country borders Israel, the occupied West Bank, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

“We are following the reports closely and are in contact with Jordanian officials,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price. “King Abdullah is an important partner for the United States and he has our full support.”

The official Saudi Arabia news agency said the kingdom had “confirmed its full support for Jordan and its King and Crown Prince in all decisions and procedures aimed at maintaining security and stability, and defused any attempt to influence them.”

Jordan’s economy has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The country of around 10 million people is also home to more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.

Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994. The countries have close security ties, but relations have otherwise been strained in recent years, largely due to differences related to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. Jordan is home to more than 2 million Palestinian refugees, most of whom are Jordanian citizens. The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Stability in Jordan and the status of the king have long been a cause for concern, particularly during the Trump administration, which gave unprecedented support to Israel and sought to isolate the Palestinians, including by cutting funding for Palestinian refugees.

In early 2018, when then-President Donald Trump threatened to cut aid to countries that did not support US policies, the government increased aid to Jordan by more than $ 1 billion over a five-year period.

Abdullah stripped his half-brother Hamzah of his crown prince title in 2004 and said he had decided to “free” him from “position constraints” to allow him to take on other duties. The move was seen as part of Abdullah’s power consolidation five years after the succession.

The current Crown Prince is Abdullah’s eldest son, Hussein, who is 26 years old.

Jordan’s ruling family goes back to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Abdullah elected Hamzah his crown prince hours after her father died of cancer in February 1999. The name was given out of respect for King Hussein, who was known to favor Hamzah the most among his eleven children from four marriages.

So far, Abdullah and Hamzah have not shown an open rivalry. In the videotaped statement, a portrait of King Hussein was seen on the wall behind the prince.