Jordanian authorities arrested around 20 people on Saturday and restricted the movement of ex-Prince Hamza bin Hussein in a context that the authorities described as “a threat to the stability of the country”, reported the American newspaper The Washington Post.
The Jordanian armed forces also demanded, in a statement issued by the official news agency, that Hamza, the half-brother of King Abdullah, abandon actions aimed at “the security and stability of the country”. According to the military, a wide-ranging investigation is underway in which a former minister, a member of the royal family and other unidentified people have been arrested.
“What was published about the arrest of His Highness Prince Hamza is not true, but he has been warned to suspend activities aimed at the stability of Jordan,” said the chief of the forces. armies, Yusef Huneity. Two people familiar with the situation told Reuters news agency that security forces arrived at Hamza’s home and launched an investigation.
In a video transmitted to the BBC by his lawyer, Hamza says he is under house arrest and has been told to stay home without communicating with anyone. In the recording, he denounces the current system as corrupt and denies being part of any foreign conspiracy, as it is speculated that Saturday’s actions are linked to a plan to destabilize the country.
A former US official familiar with the actions in Jordan said the alleged plan would not involve a “physical coup” but protests that would appear to be a “popular street insurgency”.
According to the official news agency, among those arrested in Saturday’s operation are Sharif Hassan Ben Zaid, a member of the royal family, and Bassem Awadallah, a confidant of the king who later became Minister of Finance and adviser to the prince. Saudi Mohammad Bin Salman, who has raised the possibility that Saudi Arabia is somehow participating in a supposed plan in Jordan.
After the arrests, the Saudi royal court expressed full support for King Abdullah, as well as Egypt, Lebanon and Bahrain. The US State Department, a key ally of Jordan, has said Abdullah is a “key partner” in Washington and has full support.
Arrests by senior officials and members of the royal family are rare in Jordan, considered one of the most stable Arab countries. Hamza, who was raised by his mother, Queen Noor, to succeed former King Hussein, was marginalized after being sidelined by Abudullah as an option to the throne in 2004, a move that consolidated his power.
Since then, Hamza has tried to gain popularity among the country’s prominent tribes, and opposition figures have approached him, which the current monarch views with reservations. Abdullah succeeded his father, King Hussein, who ruled Jordan for nearly five decades.
The tradition of the Hashemite dynasty, under the 1952 Constitution, gives the eldest son the right to take the throne, but the monarch retains the option of appointing a brother. King Abdullah has successfully brought political stability to the country and gained stature as a prominent Arab leader whose message has resonated especially in Western forums.
Awadallah, who was the driving force behind economic reforms before stepping down as head of the royal court in 2008, has long faced strong resistance from an old guard and a entrenched bureaucracy that thrived during years with government benefits.