Jordan’s government has accused King Abdullah’s half-brother Prince Hamzah bin Hussein of liaising with foreign parties over a plot to destabilise the country.
Ayman Safadi, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister, said at a press conference that authorities had intercepted communications between Prince Hamzah, a former crown prince, and foreign parties.
“These were efforts that threatened Jordan’s security and stability and these efforts were foiled,” Safadi said. The security services have asked for those involved in the alleged plot to be referred to the state security court, he added.
Safadi spoke a day after Prince Hamzah was placed under house arrest, in a rare public clash between top members of the long-ruling family.
The unprecedented incident has raised concerns about stability in a country seen as a key western ally in a volatile region and drawn an outpouring of support for the king.
In a videotaped statement from house arrest, the prince accused the country’s leadership of corruption and incompetence.
Safadi said intelligence agents had been observing the plotters for some time and raised their concerns with the king. He said the prince was asked to “stop all these activities and movements that threaten Jordan and its stability”, but he refused.
Safadi did not identify the foreign countries allegedly involved in the plot. But he said a longtime senior official who has business ties in several Gulf Arab states, Bassem Awadallah, was involved and had been planning on leaving the country. He also said Awadallah had been trying to secure a place for Prince Hamzah’s wife to flee.
The US, Saudi Arabia and Arab countries across the Middle East issued strong statements in favour of King Abdullah.
The swift show of support underscored Jordan’s strategic importance as an island of relative stability in the turbulent region. While the harsh criticism from a popular member of the ruling family could lend support to growing complaints about the kingdom’s poor governance, the king’s tough reaction also illustrated the limits to which he will accept public dissent.
Early on Sunday, Prince Hamzah’s mother, Queen Noor, expressed sympathy for “innocent victims”.
“Praying that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this wicked slander. God bless and keep them safe,” she tweeted.
Prince Hamzah was stripped of the crown prince title in 2004 by King Abdullah, five years after the death of their father, the late King Hussein. The prince is a popular figure in Jordan, widely seen as pious and modest.