Jordan's ex-crown prince under 'house arrest' over alleged plot to unseat king. Here's all you need to know
Hamzah bin Hussein, Jordan's former crown prince and half brother of King Abdullah II, said in a video message on Saturday that he has been placed under "house arrest". This comes amid a series of arrests of high-profile figures in the kingdom, including a member of the royal family and a longtime confidant of the monarch, citing reasons related to "the security and stability of Jordan", The New York Times reports.
'Plot' to unseat King Abdullah II
The 59-year-old King Abdullah II has ruled Jordan since 1999, when he succeeded his father, King Hussein, to the throne. Prince Hamzah is the eldest son of the late King Hussain and his fourth wife Queen Noor and was born to a Syrian-American family. Now, although Hamzah was named the crown prince of Jordan back in '99, his half-brother and current king, King Abdullah II, transferred the title of the crown prince to his son, Prince Hussein, in 2004.
According to a report by The Washington Post on Saturday, as many as 20 of Jordan's high-ranking individuals have now been arrested on security concerns, amid an ongoing investigation into an alleged plot to unseat Hamza's older half brother, King Abdullah II. The arrested aides include Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of Jordan's royal family and former envoy to Saudi Arabia, and former finance minister Bassem Ibrahim Awadallah, a longtime confidante of King Abdullah II. The two senior palace officials and the unnamed "others" were reportedly arrested after a "close security follow-up."
Prince Hamza's video message
In the six-minute video message apparently filmed on Saturday and provided to the BBC by his lawyer, Jordan's former crown prince Hamzah bin Hussein described how he had been ordered to remain in his home incommunicado with his wife and children. "Since then, a number of the people I know -- or my friends -- have been arrested, my security has been removed, and the internet and phone lines have been cut," The Times quotes the former crown prince of Jordan as saying. "This is my last form of communication, satellite internet, that I have, and I have been informed by the company that they are instructed to cut it so it may be the last time I am able to communicate," Prince Hamza said, adding that he was making this recording to make it clear that he is "not part of any conspiracy or nefarious organisation or foreign-backed group, as is always the claim here for anyone who speaks out."
Malik R Dahlan, an international lawyer, confirmed to the New York Times that the video was of Prince Hamzah, who serves on the board of his Institution Quraysh for Law & Policy in London.
The Jordanian army and security services, in an earlier statement published by the Petra news agency, had denied reports that Prince Hamza had been arrested. The former crown prince of Jordan was later asked "to cease all movements or activities that could be employed to target Jordan's security and stability," The Post reported, quoting a statement by the Jordanian Armed Forces which confirmed the multiple arrests.
Arrests of top officials and royal family members are unusual in Jordan, a normally stable Arab kingdom that has been a stalwart ally of the West, particularly when it comes to counterterrorism cooperation in the Middle East. It borders Israel, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Syria and Iraq, the Post reported.
Jordan is regarded as a vital ally of the United States in the Middle East and has been a major partner in the US-led campaign against the Islamic State. Jordan receives annual aid from Washington and the US most recently provided Jordan with $700 million in August.
The US state department on Saturday said, “We are closely following the reports and in touch with Jordanian officials," Ned Price, a state department spokesperson, said in a statement. "King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support."
Saudi Arabia and Egypt too have expressed their support to King Abdullah, news agency AFP reported. Responding to the arrests, Saudi officials said they supported the Jordanian king’s decisions and measures to preserve security and stability and face any attempt to affect them.