Jordan king's half-brother under 'house arrest' amid coup claims

Jordan's official media warned yesterday that security and stability are "red line" issues after a half-brother of King Abdullah II said he was put under house arrest.

Jordan’s official media warned yesterday that security and stability are “red line” issues after a half-brother of King Abdullah II said he was put under house arrest and others were detained amid reports of a coup plot.

Washington and Gulf allies stressed their support for the pro-Western government in Amman.

Jordan’s former crown prince Hamzah bin Hussein, 41, who lost his title in 2004, said he had been confined to his home, speaking in a video message which the BBC said on Saturday it had obtained from his lawyer.

Hamzah lashed out at Jordan’s “ruling system” and said several of his friends had been arrested, his security detail removed and his internet and phone lines cut.

He denied being part of “any conspiracy or nefarious organization,” but said the country had “become stymied in corruption, in nepotism, and in misrule” and that nobody was allowed to criticise the authorities.

The official newspaper al-Rai warned yesterday that Jordan’s “security and stability” were a “red line that must not be crossed or even approached.”

Official news agency Petra said an unspecified number of suspects had been arrested, among them former close aides to the royal family Bassem Awadallah, chief of the royal court in 2007-2008, and Sherif Hassan bin Zaid.

The pair were detained for “security reasons,” Petra said, quoting a security source.

Hamzah’s mother, Queen Noor, tweeted yesterday that she was “praying that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this wicked slander. God bless and keep them safe.”

Hamzah is the eldest son of late King Hussein and American-born Queen Noor. He has had good relations officially with Abdullah, his half-brother, and is a popular figure close to tribal leaders.

Abdullah had appointed Hamzah crown prince in 1999 in line with Hussein’s dying wishes, but in 2004 stripped him of the title and gave it to his own eldest son Hussein.

A Jordanian analyst who did not want to be named for security reasons said Hamzah had recently “stepped up his criticism of what he described as corruption within the government in front of his circle of friends.”

According to the same source, “there is certainly resentment on his part, because he has never digested losing his title of crown prince.”

The army denied on Saturday that Prince Hamzah, who holds no official position, had been detained. “What has been published about the arrest of Prince Hamzah is not true,” said Joint Chiefs of Staff head Major General Yousef Huneiti.

But the prince had been “asked to stop some activities that could be used to shake the stability and security of Jordan,” he said.

The Washington Post said the former crown prince was “placed under restriction” as part of a probe into an alleged plot to unseat the king.

“The move followed the discovery of what palace officials described as a complex and far-reaching plot,” it said, quoting a senior Middle East intelligence official.

The alleged scheme “included at least one other Jordanian royal as well as tribal leaders and members of the country’s security establishment,” the Post added.

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