Former confidant of Jordan’s King Abdullah charged with sedition

Bassem Awadallah was arrested at the beginning of April

Jordanian Bassem Awadallah, vice-president of the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD), speaks to media a day before the opening of the two-day Second Petra Conference of Nobel Laureates hosted by Jordan's King Abdullah II and Nobel Peace winner Elie Wiesel, founder of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, 20 June 2006 in the ancient city of Petra, about 80 kilometers south of the Dead Sea. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH BARRAK (Photo by JOSEPH BARRAK / AFP)
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A Jordanian security court on Sunday charged a former confidant of King Abdullah II and a distant cousin of the monarch with attempted sedition.

The charges against former Royal Court chief Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, who is a junior royal, came more than two months after they were arrested in what the authorities described as an attempt to destabilise the kingdom.

Jordan's official news agency said the two men were charged with inciting opposition to the existing political order and “performing actions that expose the safety of society and its security to danger and cause sedition”.

The allegations have shaken the political foundations of Jordan, a century-old Hashemite monarchy built on the loyalty of the country's tribes who are concentrated its central and southern regions.

The episode also marked an escalation of a royal rift that was largely kept under wraps since King Hussein, father of the current king, died in 1999 after ruling Jordan for almost five decades.

The authorities said the two men, as well as 16 others who were arrested in April and later released, were linked with Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, a half-brother of King Abdullah and a former crown prince.

Prince Hamzah publicly criticised the running of the country at the beginning of April, when the authorities asked him to curb his movements and contacts in the kingdom.

Jordanian TV broadcast footage of the prince with King Abdullah and other members of the royal family at an event to mark Jordan’s centenary on April 11.

He has not been seen in public since.

The prince has "close links" with Mr Awadallah and Sharif Hasan, the official Al Rai newspaper said on Sunday.

It cited documents containing the charges from the Security Court, which is dominated by the military.

According to the documents cited by the paper, Mr Awadallah and Mr Hasan helped the prince “gain international support to back up Prince Hamzah’s goal to reach power”.

In reference to the prince's visits to tribes in outlying areas, the paper said the two men encouraged him to “intensify incitement meetings with some segments of the society”.

Members of the tribes make up the bulk of the security forces and are a major component of the bureaucracy.

It is an arrangement that dates to Emir Abdullah, who founded with the aid of the British, in the early 1920s, what became Jordan in the 1940s.

In return for a stake in the system, most of the major tribes pledged loyalty to the Hashemites, who came from what is now Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah’s great great grandfather is Sharif Hussein bin Ali of Makkah.

Al Rai said Prince Hamzah used a major incident in the central town of Salt in March to try to get public opinion behind him.

Seven coronavirus patients at a public hospital in Salt died after the hospital ran out of oxygen, prompting anti-government demonstrations across the kingdom.

The authorities cracked down on the protests, arresting hundreds of people.

The newspaper said Mr Awadallah sent a message to Mr Hasan after the incident, saying: "It is the time of H."

Mr Awadallah and Mr Hasan are the only two people arrested for suspected links with Prince Hamzah who are not members of tribes. The 16 other men detained were released at the end of April.

The tribal underpinning's of Jordan's system were further shaken earlier this month when a parliamentarian from the Ajarmeh tribe just south of Amman publicly made unprecedented threats against the king and called on his flowerers to disobey the monarch.

Parliament, which has little political power in Jordan but can discipline its members, removed the deputy, Osama Al Ajarmeh, on June 6.

The king abrogated parliament a day later.