Alleged Jordan Coup: Former Crown Prince Says He Is Under House Arrest

Some 20 people were arrested on suspicion of plotting to unseat King Abdullah II of Jordan, but Jordan denies that the former crown prince was detained

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Jordan's King Abdullah II attends the 30th Arab Summit in Tunis, Tunisia, March 31, 2019
Jordan's King Abdullah II attends the 30th Arab Summit in Tunis, Tunisia, March 31, 2019Credit: Zoubeir Souissi/ Reuters

About 20 people, including associates of King Abdullah II, were arrested by Jordanian authorities Saturday on suspicion of plotting to unseat the monarch. 

The Washington Post and Arabic media outlets reported earlier Saturday that among those detained was the former Crown Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, half-brother of the king, in a plot termed by the authorities "a threat to the country's stability." 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. 

Prince Hamzah bin Hussein.Credit: Abd Alrahman Wreikat / Wikimedia Commons

The reports added that the complex plot included at least one other member of the country's royal family, as well as other leaders and security figures. An intelligence official said that the plotters had "foreign ties," but did not explain further.

Jordanian state media denied that Prince Hamza was detained or put under restrictions. Two people familiar with the situation told Reuters security forces had arrived at his house and begun an investigation.

Jordanian Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Maj. Gen. Yousef Huneiti, said in a statement Saturday night that "There is no truth to the report that Prince Hamza was detained, but he has been asked to stop all activities that can be exploited to harm national security."

Huneiti added, "This follows a comprehensive investigation carried out by security services that led to the arrests of Sharif Hassan Ben Zaid and Bassem Ibrahim Awdallah."

A U.S. State Department spokesman said on Saturday, "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."

Spokesmen for the governments of Saudia Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and Lebanon have all expressed support for King Abdullah in maintaining "security and stability" of his kingdom.

State news agency Petra said U.S.-educated Awadallah, a long-time confidant of the king who later became minister of finance, and Ben Zaid, a member of the royal family, were detained along with other unnamed figures. It gave no details. Ben Zaid is known to be an associate to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 

The Saudi royal court voiced its support for Jordan's King Abdullah on Saturday. "The kingdom affirms its full support, with all its capabilities, to all decisions and measures taken by King Abdullah and His Highness Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II, the Crown Prince, to maintain security and stability," said a statement from the Saudi royal court.

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

Awadallah, who was a driving force behind economic reforms before he resigned as chief of the royal court in 2008, has long faced stiff resistance from an old guard and an entrenched bureaucracy that flourished for years on government perks.

Abdullah dismissed Hamza as heir to the throne in 2004 in a move that consolidated his power.

Jordan's powerful intelligence agency, with a pervasive influence in public life, has played a bigger public role since the introduction of emergency laws at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic last year, which civic groups say violate civil and political rights.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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