Jordan condemns two former officials over royal “sedition” plot | Middle East news
A Jordanian court has sentenced a former aide to the king and a member of the royal family to 15 years in prison for trying to destabilize the monarchy.
Basem Awadallah, who holds US citizenship and was previously an aide to King Abdullah II, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family, were found guilty of sedition and incitement on Monday.
The court said it confirmed the evidence supporting the charges against the two and that they were determined to harm the monarchy by pushing the former heir to the throne, Prince Hamzah, as a replacement for the king.
The Petra News Agency reported that bin Zaid was sentenced to another year in prison and 1,000 dinars ($1,400) for drug use.
The accusations revealed differences within the ruling Hashemite family, which has been a beacon of stability in a turbulent region in recent years.
Awadallah, the former finance minister who was the driving force behind Jordan’s liberal economic reforms, was accused of inciting the undermining of the political system and committing acts that threaten public security and sow discord.
It is also alleged that the couple sought foreign assistance.
They denied the charges, and Alaa Al-Khasawneh, Sharif’s lawyer, said they would appeal the verdict.
Hamza is a famous personality in Jordan. He is seen as devout and humble, in contact with the common people and resembles his beloved father, the late King Hussein. He has criticized the government in the past, accusing officials of “failed management” after they approved the income tax law in 2018.
In a conflicting account, he is also seen as one of the disgruntled royals who never forgiven King Abdullah for relinquishing the title of crown prince in 2004 and giving him his eldest son.
His popularity stems from the relationships he established with the Jordanian tribes, the bedrock of Hashemite rule.
The estranged prince avoided punishment last April after he pledged allegiance to the king, and defused the crisis that led to his house arrest.
In a series of video statements, he said he was silenced for speaking out against corruption and misrule by the ruling regime.
While the former crown prince himself was not on trial, the 13-page indictment said Hamza, 41, was “determined to fulfill his personal ambition to rule, in violation of the constitution and Hashemite mores.”
The military judge, Lt. Col. Mowaffaq Al-Masaeed, announced the verdict after a closed trial that did not exceed six sessions.
Before the verdict was announced, Michael Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor appointed by the US-based Awadallah family, told The Associated Press that the trial was “completely unfair.”
Awadallah said he was beaten, tortured and threatened with ill-treatment in the future “if he did not confess,” Sullivan said.
foreign aid claims
This is the “maximum maximum penalty” for the charges against them, said Faris Braizat, head of the political think tank Namaa for Strategic Intelligence Solutions.
“The issue will depend on other repercussions,” Brizat told Al Jazeera. “I am not sure if there is a legal procedure they can follow with the SSC, but I think the charges they received will bring a lot of satisfaction to the public.”
In the days leading up to the trial, the alleged conspirators sought foreign help to exploit the king’s perceived weakness at a time when he was under pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia to accept The Trump administration’s plan for the Middle East is now defunct.
Jordan expressed concern that the plan would weaken the king’s historic role as guardian of key Muslim and Christian sites in occupied East Jerusalem and a pillar of Hashemite legitimacy.
Allegations of outside contact center on Awadallah, who holds Jordanian, American and Saudi citizenship, and who once served as the king’s official envoy to Riyadh. He has close relations with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“I’ve never really seen such a number that Jordanians didn’t like so much in the past fifteen or twenty years,” Brizat said, referring to Awadallah. “I think that would raise the question of why such an individual… would do what he did.”