San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Prince, top officials arrested as turmoil seizes royal palace
AMMAN, Jordan — The Jordanian government has arrested highprofile figures in the kingdom, including a member of the royal family and a former chief of the royal court, with officials citing “the security and stability of Jordan” as intrigue consumed the country Saturday.
Bassem Awadallah, a longtime confidant of King Abdullah II who later became minister of finance, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family who was the former royal envoy to Saudi Arabia, were detained along with other unnamed figures.
The fate of the former crown prince of Jordan, Hamzah bin Hussein, a half brother of Abdullah, was unclear. In a statement published Saturday by the Petra news agency, the Jordanian army and security services denied reports that Hamzah had been arrested. But it said that he had been ordered to cease activities and movements undermining “the security and stability of Jordan.”
In a dramatic video apparently filmed under house arrest, the former crown prince described how he had been ordered to remain in his home incommunicado as part of a series of highprofile arrests by security services.
“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,” Hamzah said.
Hamzah said in the video that he was “making this recording to make it clear that I’m not part of any conspiracy or nefarious organization or foreignbacked group, as is always the claim here for anyone who speaks out,” he said.
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 with counterterrorism cooperation in the Middle East. It borders Israel, the Israelioccupied West Bank, Syria and Iraq.
“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.”
Abdullah II, 59, has reigned since 1999, having succeeded his father, King Hussein. Hamzah, 41, is the eldest son of King Hussein and Queen Noor, his fourth wife and widow. Hamzah was named crown prince in 1999, but Abdullah II transferred the title to his son, Prince Hussein, in 2004.
An Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Jordanian officials told their Israeli counterparts that there had not been a coup attempt, that the situation was under control and that its gravity had been exaggerated by the news media, though they did confirm that arrests had been made.