Jordan's Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi said on Sunday that King Abdullah's half-brother and former crown prince, Prince Hamzah, had been liaising with foreign parties over a plot to destabilize the country and had been monitored for some time.
The authorities intercepted communications between Hamzah and foreign parties over the timing of steps to undermine Jordan's security, Safadi said at a news conference. Safadi did not specificy which foreign parties were involved.
But he said a longtime senior official who has business ties in several Gulf Arab states, Bassem Ibrahim Awadallah, was involved and had been planning on leaving the country. He also said Awadallah had been trying to secure a plane for Hamzah's wife to flee. Awadallah and a second senior official, Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, are among the suspects in custody.
“There is a joint coordination between Awadallah and the prince but I will not go into the details," Safadi said.
The security services have asked for those involved in the plot to be referred to the state security court, he said.
Safadi, who also serves as foreign minister, spoke a day after a half brother of King Abdullah was placed under house arrest. He said that his country has foiled a “malicious plot," adding that "foreign parties" had been involved in an alleged coup attempt.
Safadi said Jordanian intelligence had intercepted certain communications at what he called the “zero hour.”
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"Then it was clear they moved from design and planning into action," Safadi said. He says some 14-16 people are under arrest.
"Initial investigations showed these activities and movements had reached a stage that directly affected the security and stability of the country, but his majesty decided it was best to talk directly to Prince Hamza, to deal with it within the family to prevent it from being exploited," he said.
Hamzah had apparently been warned by the military to stop his actions. He says that he is currently under house arrest.
He declined to say whether the prince would be charged with any crime. Asked whether Hamzah could face charges, Safadi said that for the time being there were “amicable” attempts to deal with him, but added that “the kingdom’s stability and security transcends” everything. The plot is totally contained. Our security and stability are not shaken.”
The former crown prince later said in a video recording that he is under house arrest, and claimed the regime was attempting to silence him from criticizing corruption.
“I’m not part of any conspiracy or nefarious organization or foreign-backed group, as is always the claim here for anyone who speaks out,” Hamzah said.
Earlier, Hamzah's mother Queen Noor, the widow of Jordan's late king, defended her son."Praying that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this wicked slander," she wrote on Twitter. "God bless and keep them safe."
The U.S., Saudi Arabia and Arab countries across the Middle East issued strong statements in favor of Abdullah.
The swift show of support underscored Jordan’s strategic importance as an island of relative stability in the turbulent region.
While the harsh criticism from a popular member of the ruling family could lend support to growing complaints about the kingdom's poor governance, the king's tough reaction also illustrated the limits to which he will accept public dissent.
In stark contrast, Israel's Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu has been notably quiet. Relations between Israel and Jordan have been hostile in recent weeks amid a very public diplomatic spat between Netanyahu and King Abdullah.
While Jordan said nothing of potential Israeli involvement, Iran's Foreign Ministry hinted at it. Its spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that "Internal tension and instability in the West Asian region would be in favor of the Zionist regime," adding "There are always traces of this regime in any sedition in Islamic countries."
Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz said “this is a Jordanian internal matter. Jordan is a country of peace, a neighbor and is of great strategic importance," Gantz said.
Israel "must do everything possible to preserve this alliance, which has existed for more than 30 years now," he added. "A strong and prosperous Jordan is in our security, diplomatic and economic interests."
King Abdallah II has received public support from leaders across the region, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon, as well as the U.S. State Department.