Former Jordanian parliamentarian arrested after insults against King Abdullah

Osama Al Ajarmeh brandished a sword in public defiance against the monarch

 King Abdullah II, the Supreme Commander of the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army, accompanied by Crown Prince Al Hussein, attends JAF and security agencies’ ceremony marking the state’s centennial. Courtesy Royal Hashemite Court
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Jordanian authorities arrested a sacked member of parliament who called on his tribal followers to defy King Abdullah, official media said late on Wednesday.

“Security forces arrested on Wednesday the fired parliamentarian Osama Al Ajarmeh,” the official Petra news agency quoted Interior Minister Mazen Al Faraya as saying.

There was no mention of any charges.

Such direct public defiance of the monarch’s authority by a member of the mostly loyalist parliament is unprecedented in the king's 22-year reign, and comes during an economic recession as Jordan struggles with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Followers of Mr Al Ajarmeh fired guns in the air and barricaded themselves in his home region of Naour, just south of Amman, early this month after parliament removed him for making what the Speaker termed "insults" against the king.

Mr Al Ajarmeh was sacked on June 5, a day after footage emerged of him making threats against the king in front of his followers while brandishing a sword and wearing a gun holster.

Security forces surrounded Naour but moved against Mr Al Ajarmeh only after anger by his armed followers subsided. The king abrogated parliament on June 7, and days later announced plans to “modernise” the legislature.

Lawlessness in Naour and other outlying areas has risen in the last decade as the economy stagnated and members of Jordan's tribes felt that they were losing privileges that date to foundation of kingdom 100 years ago.

Emir Abdullah, great-grandfather of the current king, founded with British support what later became later Jordan. The emir, and subsequent monarchs, gave the tribes a large stake in the system by making them the security backbone and hiring their members in government. The arrangement has come under pressure in the past decade as public debt rose and the state reduced hiring to curb expenses. Unemployment has risen to a record 24 per cent.

The importance of the tribal dynamic to the system came to the fore in early April when the authorities arrested 18 people over what the king described as a sedition attempt.

The authorities said the 18 were linked to Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, a half-brother of King Abdullah, who had cultivated links with several tribes in the centre of Jordan.

The arrests occurred as the authorities told the prince to cease his contacts and not to meet with tribes.

Sixteen of those arrested were members of tribes and were later released. The two remaining people in detention, a former confidant of King Abdullah and a distant cousin of the monarch, are expected to face a security court next week for attempted sedition.