Jordan arrests ex-palace aide, others for ‘security’ reasons

Jordan's ex-crown prince says he's under house arrest after alleged attempt to launch 'popular uprising'

King Abdullah has ruled the country since the death of his father, King Hussein, in 1999.

In a videotaped statement from house arrest, Hamzah accused the country's leadership of corruption and incompetence.

The government also made other high profile arrests on Saturday, including a former minister and another member of the royal family, citing "the security and stability of Jordan".

In his videos, Prince Hamzah, the king's half-brother, said he had been told he could not go out or communicate with people.

The move is thought to follow a visit by the prince to tribal leaders, where he is said to have garnered some support.

What is the prince accused of?

Hamzah's videotaped statement came after two former senior officials and other suspects reportedly had been arrested for "security reasons", even as authorities denied that Hamzah had been detained or placed under house arrest.

But the plot had been "nipped in the bud", Petra quoted the deputy PM as saying.

Safadi did not identify the foreign countries allegedly involved in the plot.

The army denied Saturday that Prince Hamzah, who holds no official position, had been detained. He noted that dialogue was ongoing. Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, all Sunni-majority countries, have for years aligned together against Shia Iran.

The US state department has already offered the king, who has cultivated close relations with Washington and been a key ally in the war against Islamic State, its "full support".

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The UK also backed the king.

In early 2018, as then-President Donald Trump was threatening to cut aid to countries that did not support USA policies, the administration boosted assistance to Jordan by more than $1 billion over five years.

Amman-based journalist Rana Sweis told DW that Prince Hamzah's video appeal was "unprecedented". Some sources say he works as a consultant for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. "He has a very candid resemblance to his father, King Hussein, and he is also very popular with the local tribes", she said.

"Communication was lost with them more than three hours ago", she tweeted.

Jordan, which is now under a nightly covid curfew that is set to expire in mid-May, has been hit hard economically by the coronavirus pandemic as well as by the fallout from massive waves of refugees from neighboring Syria.

However, high-level political arrests are rare. The country's powerful intelligence agency has gained extra powers since the pandemic began, drawing criticism from rights groups.

Emirati official Anwar Gargash said on Twitter that Jordan's stability was a priority for the region, and that the country's "wise policy of building bridges in a turbulent region was not an easy choice but was, and remains, the necessary direction".

Prince Hamza said in a video passed to the BBC by his lawyer that Jordan's rulers are corrupt and put their interests above those of the public. He also attended Harvard University in the United States and has served in the Jordanian armed forces.

Early on Sunday, Hamzah's mother, Queen Noor, expressed sympathy for "innocent victims".

Who else has been arrested?

The state news agency said on Saturday that Bassem Awadallah, a USA -educated long-time confidant of the king who later became minister of finance and also advisor to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and royal family member Sharif Hassan Ben Zaid had been detained, along with others. He has cultivated strong ties with several USA administrations, but, in recent years, sparred with former president Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over proposed Israeli plans to annex the West Bank and bypass the Palestinians in a bid for Israeli normalization with the rest Arab world.

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