Jordan’s royal rift: Bassem Awadallah appeals against sedition conviction

Lawyer for jailed former aide to King Abdullah says every aspect of the verdict is being contested

Bassem Awadallah was convicted of 'incitement against the ruling system' in Jordan and jailed for 15 years. AFP
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A former confidant of Jordan’s King Abdullah has lodged an appeal against a conviction for plotting to undermine the country’s stability.

Bassem Awadallah, former chief of the royal court, was the most senior figure arrested after a rift among Jordan’s royal family broke into the open in March.

A court sentenced Awadallah in secret last month to 15 years in jail, after he was found guilty of sedition.

“Today we appealed to the Court of Cessation [against] every aspect of the verdict,” Mohammad Afif, Awadallah’s lawyer, told The National on Sunday.

The incarceration of Awadallah was one of the most high-profile political cases in Jordan since King Abdullah became monarch in 1999.

The case has regional implications and diplomats say it undermined Jordan’s ties with Saudi Arabia.

Awadallah rose from a bureaucrat to become one of Jordan’s most powerful men in the 2000s.

Mr Afif said he presented a 30-page appeal to the Court of Cessation, Jordan’s highest court.

It covered “all the procedures” adopted by the security court that sentenced Awadallah in on July 12, he said.

The appeal also objected to the evidence presented against Awadallah and the court’s refusal to hear any witnesses on behalf of the defence, Mr Afifi said.

Awadallah was a senior adviser to King Salman of Saudi Arabia at the time of his arrest in March. He has a Saudi passport and is also a US national.

King Abdullah said while on a visit to Washington last month that, despite Awadallah's Saudi ties, “we are dealing with this as a domestic problem”.

The Jordanian monarch hinted that any tensions caused by Awadallah’s arrest should ease.

Members of the media watch as a Jordanian court issues a verdict in the case against former royal court chief Bassem Awadallah and a minor royal, Sharif Hassan bin Zaid. EPA

In a sign of a possible thaw in ties with Riyadh, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan visited Jordan last week and met King Abdullah in Amman.

The king said after meeting Prince Faisal that Saudi Arabia has maintained support for Jordan since the sedition accusations surfaced in March.

Awadallah was among 17 men arrested in connection with the case. The authorities said the 17 were linked to Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, a younger half-brother of the monarch.

State media said Prince Hamzah sought to depose his brother, without citing any evidence. The prince was not arrested.

He has not been seen in public since state media published photographs of the prince with the king, dated April 11.

Fifteen out of the 17 men who were arrested were released in March, except for Awadallah and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a distant cousin of King Abdullah.

The secret court also sentenced Sharif Hassan to 15 years in prison for sedition.

Updated: August 08, 2021, 4:57 PM