AMMAN, Jordan (AP) –
The half brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II said on Saturday he was placed under house arrest and accused the country’s “ruling system” of incompetence and corruption, exposing a rare breach within the ruling monarchy of a close Western ally.
Prince Hamzah’s videotaped statement came after the country’s official news agency reported that two former senior officials and other suspects had been arrested for “security reasons,” even as authorities denied that Hamzah had been detained or placed under house arrest.
In a video leaked to the British Broadcasting Corp., Hamzah, a former crown prince stripped of his title in 2004, said the country’s military chief visited him early Saturday morning and was told he was not allowed to go out, communicate with the people or meet. with them.
He said his security equipment was removed and his phone and internet had been cut off. He said he was talking on satellite internet and hoped the service would be cut off as well. The BBC said it received the statement from Hamzah’s lawyer.
Hamzah said he had been informed that he was being punished for participating in meetings in which the king had been criticized, although he said he was not accused of participating in the criticism.
He then lashed out at the “ruling system” without mentioning the king by name, saying that he had decided “that his personal interests, that his financial interests, that his corruption is more important than the life, dignity and future of the 10 million of people”. who live here. ”
“I am not part of any conspiracy, nefarious organization or group backed by foreigners, as is always the claim here for anyone who speaks out,” he said. “There are members of this family who still love this country, who care about (its people) and will put them above all else.”
“Apparently, this is a crime worthy of isolation, threats and that is now isolated,” he added.
It is rare for a high-ranking member of the ruling family to express such harsh criticism of the government, and any sign of instability in Jordan is likely to raise concern among the country’s western allies.
Hamzah is a popular figure in Jordan. He is seen as religious and modest, in contact with ordinary people and similar to his beloved father, the late King Hussein. He has criticized the government in the past, accusing officials of “failed management” after they passed an income tax law in 2018.
The country’s top general had previously denied that Hamzah was detained or under house arrest. Hamzah was asked to “stop some movements and activities that are being used to attack Jordan’s security and stability,” Gen. Yousef Huneiti was quoted as saying by the official Petra news agency.
He said an investigation was underway and its results would be made public “in a transparent and clear manner.”
“No one is above the law, and Jordan’s security and stability are above all else,” he added.
Petra had previously reported that Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family, and Bassem Ibrahim Awadallah, a former head of the royal court, were detained. Awadallah also previously served as minister of planning and minister of finance and has private business interests throughout the Gulf region.
The agency did not provide further details or name the other people who were arrested.
Abdullah has ruled Jordan since the death in 1999 of his father, King Hussein, who ruled the country for nearly half a century. Abdullah has cultivated close relations with the United States 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.
“We are closely following the reports and in contact with Jordanian officials,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price. “King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States and he has our full support.”
Saudi Arabia’s official news agency said the kingdom “confirmed its full support for Jordan and its king and crown prince in all decisions and procedures to maintain security and stability and defuse any attempts to affect them.”
Jordan’s economy has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The country, with a population of around 10 million, is also home to more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.
Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994. The countries maintain close security ties, but relations have been strained in recent years, largely due to differences over Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. Jordan is home to more than 2 million Palestinian refugees, the majority of whom have Jordanian citizenship. Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
The stability in Jordan and the status of the king have long been a matter of concern, particularly during the Trump administration, which provided unprecedented support for Israel and sought to isolate Palestinians, even drastically 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 administration increased aid to Jordan by more than $ 1 billion in five years.
Abdullah stripped his half brother Hamzah of his crown prince title in 2004, saying he had decided to “release” him from “job limitations” to allow him to take on other responsibilities. 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.
The ruling family of Jordan traces its lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad of Islam. Abdullah had chosen Hamzah as his crown prince hours after his father died of cancer in February 1999. The appointment was out of respect for King Hussein, who was known to have favored Hamzah the most among his 11 children from four marriages.
So far, Abdullah and Hamzah have shown no open rivalry. In the videotaped statement, a portrait of King Hussein could be seen on the wall behind the prince.