Former adviser to Jordan's King Abdullah arrested on 'security grounds'

Bassem Awadallah formerly headed the Office of King Abdullah and was once Jordan's finance minister

Authorities in Jordan have arrested a former right-hand man of King Abdullah, who played a major role in developing the country’s economic policy, as well as a junior member of the royal family.

The men were reportedly detained on security grounds.

Initial reports that Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, a son of the late King Hussein by his fourth wife Queen Noor, had also been detained were not true, the Jordanian military high command and government media outlets said.

Claims that have been published about his highness prince Hamzah having being arrested are not true

Maj Gen Yousef Huneiti

The official Petra news agency announced the arrests of Bassem Awadallah, royal family member Sharif Hassan Ben Zaid and other unnamed figures for “security-related” reasons.

Mr Awadallah was once a key player in drawing up the country's economic policy and served as chief of the Royal Hashemite Court until stepping down in 2008.

An investment banker by profession, he was seen as a capable economist, rising to the position of economic adviser to the prime minister in the 1990s, after obtaining a PhD from the London School of Economics.

Cabinet positions soon followed, including Minister of Planning and International Cooperation in 2001 and Minister of Finance in 2005, before he took on advisory roles with the royal court.

Prince Hamzah arrest reports denied

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

Speaking in English in the video, passed by his lawyer to the BBC, he said he was not part of any foreign conspiracy and described the ruling system as corrupt.

"[Jordan's] well-being has been put second by a ruling system that has decided that its personal interests, financial interests, that its corruption is more important than the lives and dignity and future of the ten million people who live here," he said.

But Army Chief of Staff Yousef Huneiti said “claims that have been published about his highness Prince Hamzah having been arrested are not true.”

Maj Gen Huneiti said Prince Hamzah had been asked to “stop movements and activities that are employed to target the security of Jordan and its stability”.

"Investigations are ongoing and the outcome will be announced with all due transparency," he said.

"All measures have been taken according to the law, and no one is above the law. Jordan’s security is above all considerations."

Arrests of top officials and royal family members are rare in Jordan.

Regional support

Saudi Arabia was quick to issue a statement of support for the Jordanian government, emphasising that it would "stand by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and give its full support with all its capabilities for all decisions and measures taken by King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein and His Highness Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II, Crown Prince, to maintain security and stability".

The UAE highlighted its "full solidarity" with the kingdom as well as support for decisions taken by King Abdullah and Prince Hussein "to preserve the security and stability of Jordan and defuse every attempt to influence them".

"The UAE affirms that the security and stability of Jordan is an integral part of its security," the statement carried by Wam said, quoting the Ministry of Presidential Affairs.

The US State Department said King Abdullah was a "key partner" of the United States and "has our full support".

State Department spokesman Ned Price said: "We are closely following the reports and in touch with Jordanian officials. King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support."

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa also voiced his support for the king and "his measures to maintain security and stability in brotherly Jordan, and defuse every attempt to influence them," state news agency BNA reported.

The Gulf Cooperation Council's secretary general said in a statement on Saturday that the GCC stands with Jordan and all its measures to maintain its security and stability.

Qatar also issued a statement of support for "all the decisions and measures" taken by King Abdullah to maintain peace and stability in Jordan.

Egypt voiced its support to King Abdullah “to maintain the security and stability of the kingdom against any attempts to undermine it”, the presidency spokesman said on Facebook

Lebanon's prime minister-designate Saad Hariri expressed his solidarity with King Abdullah in protecting Jordan's security.

Updated: April 4, 2021 03:39 PM

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