Jordanian authorities deny reports that former Crown Prince Hamzah was arrested, but say he has been asked to stop destabilising ‘activities’.
Jordan’s army chief of staff says the half-brother of King Abdullah II was asked to “stop some movements and activities that are being used to target Jordan’s security and stability” amid the arrest of former senior officials close to the ruling monarchy.
General Yousef Huneiti, the army chief of staff, denied reports on Saturday that Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, a former crown prince, was arrested. He said an investigation is still continuing and its results will be made public “in a transparent and clear form”.
“No one is above the law and Jordan’s security and stability are above all,” he told the official Petra news agency.
The news agency reported earlier on Saturday that Jordanian security forces had arrested a former adviser to King Abdullah and others on “security related” grounds.
Bassem Awadallah, a longtime confidant of the king who later became minister of finance, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a former royal envoy, were detained along with other unnamed figures, Petra said.
“We are closely following the reports and in touch with Jordanian officials,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support.”
— Jordan News Agency (@Petranews) April 3, 2021
King Abdullah has ruled Jordan since the 1999 death of his father, King Hussein, who ruled the country for close to a half-century. The king has cultivated close relations with US and other Western leaders over the years, and Jordan was a key ally in the war against the ISIL (ISIS) group.
The country borders Israel, the occupied West Bank, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
King Abdullah had chosen Hamzah as his crown prince hours after their father died of cancer in February 1999, but stripped him of the title in 2004, saying he had decided to “free” him “from the constraints of the position of crown prince in order to give you the freedom to work and undertake any mission or responsibility I entrust you with”.
The current crown prince is Abdullah’s oldest son, Prince Hussein, aged 26.
Arrests of top officials close to 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.
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.
Jordanian riot police last month broke up protests in Amman and other cities called to mark the 10th anniversary of Arab Spring pro-democracy demonstrations, and authorities arrested dozens of activists, witnesses said.
The country’s economy has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. Jordan, with a population of around 10 million, also hosts more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.