Jordan prince says he's confined, lashes out at authorities

AMMAN, Jordan – Jordanian King Abdullah’s half-brother said Saturday he was placed under house arrest by Jordanian authorities, accusing the country’s leadership of corruption and incompetence.

In a videotaped statement leaked to the British Broadcasting Corp.Prince Hamzah said he was visited by the country’s military chief early Saturday and said, “I wasn’t allowed to go out, communicate with or meet people.”

He said his security detail had been removed and his phone and internet service had been shut down. He said he was talking on satellite internet but also expected the service to be discontinued. The BBC says it received the statement from Hamzah’s lawyer.

In the statement, Hamzah said he had been informed that he had been punished for attending meetings where the king had been criticized, although he was not himself accused of being a direct critic.

He said he told the army chief, “I am not the person responsible for the breakdown in governance, corruption and incompetence that has prevailed in our government structure for the past 15 to 20 years and always through the government the year got worse. I am not responsible for the lack of trust people have in their institutions. You are responsible. “

The country’s top general had previously denied that Hamzah – a former crown prince whose title was revoked in 2004 – was arrested or under house arrest despite authorities announcing the arrest of former senior officials close to the ruling monarchy.

Hamzah has been asked to “stop some movements and activities that are being used to combat the security and stability of Jordan,” said General Yousef Huneiti, the army chief of staff.

He said an investigation was still ongoing and the results would be published “in a transparent and clear manner”.

“Nobody is above the law and Jordan’s security and stability are above all,” he told the official Petra news agency.

Petra had previously reported that two senior officials who had previously worked for the palace with other suspects had been arrested on “security grounds” without providing further details.

According to the Petra report, Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family, and Bassem Ibrahim Awadallah, a former head of the royal court, were arrested. Awadallah was previously also Minister of Planning and Finance Minister and has private business interests throughout the Gulf region.

The agency did not provide any further information or named the other detainees.

“We are following the reports closely and are in contact with Jordanian officials,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price. “King Abdullah is an important partner for the United States and he has our full support.”

The official Saudi Arabia news agency said the kingdom had “confirmed its full support for Jordan and its king and crown prince in all decisions and procedures aimed at maintaining security and stability, and defused any attempt to influence them.”

Abdullah has ruled Jordan since the death of his father, King Hussein, who ruled the country for almost half a century. The king has maintained close relationships with US and other Western leaders over the years, and Jordan was a key ally in the war against the Islamic state group. The country borders Israel, the occupied West Bank, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

Jordan’s economy has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The country of around 10 million people is also home to more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.

Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994. The countries have close security ties, but relations have otherwise been strained in recent years, largely due to differences related to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. Jordan is home to more than 2 million Palestinian refugees, most of whom are Jordanian citizens.

Stability in Jordan and the status of the king have long been of concern, particularly during the Trump administration, which gave unprecedented support to Israel and sought to isolate the Palestinians, including by cutting funding for Palestinian refugees.

In early 2018, when then-President Donald Trump threatened to cut aid to countries that did not support US policies, the government increased aid to Jordan by more than $ 1 billion over a five-year period.

Abdullah stripped his half-brother Hamzah of his crown prince title in 2004 and said he had decided to “free” him from the “constraints of the position” to allow him to take on other duties. The move was seen at the time as part of Abdullah’s consolidation of power five years after the succession.

The current Crown Prince is Abdullah’s eldest son, Hussein, who is 26 years old.

Jordan’s ruling family goes back to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Abdullah elected Hamzah his crown prince hours after her father died of cancer in February 1999. The name was given out of respect for King Hussein, who was known to favor Hamzah the most among his eleven children from four marriages.

Abdullah and Hamzah have shown no open rivalry over the years.

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