Jordan: What we know about Prince Hamzah’s ‘house arrest’

Jordanian officials accused King Abdullah II’s half-brother and former crown prince of conspiring with foreign elements in a ‘malicious plot’ that threatened national security.

Prince Hamzah, Jordan's former crown prince, is a popular figure in the country [File: AFP]

Jordanian officials have accused King Abdullah II’s half-brother and former crown prince, Prince Hamzah bin Al Hussein, of conspiring with foreign elements in a “malicious plot” that threatened national security.

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told reporters the plot had been foiled at the “zero hour”.

Safadi’s statement came a day after Prince Hamzah said he had been placed under house arrest and accused the kingdom’s “ruling system” of corruption, incompetence and harassment.

Jordan’s military on Saturday denied reports of the former crown prince’s arrest, but said he had been asked to “stop some movements and activities that are being used to target Jordan’s security and stability”.

Prince Hamzah said he was ”not part of or aware of any conspiracy”. After mediation by the royal family, the prince pledged allegiance to King Abdullah II.

Who is Prince Hamzah?

Prince Hamzah, Jordan’s former crown prince, is a popular figure in the country.

He is seen as religious and modest, in touch with the common people and similar to his father, the late King Al Hussein bin Talal.

He has criticised the government in the past, accusing officials of “failed management” after they approved an income tax law in 2018.

Prince Hamzah became crown prince when his father passed away in 1999. However, King Abdullah II stripped him of this title five years later and gave it to his eldest son.

What happened?

Jordan’s security forces arrested several high profile figures as part of a continuing security investigation and warned Prince Hamzah against actions targeting the kingdom’s stability.

“The investigations had monitored interferences and communications with foreign parties over the right timing to destabilise Jordan,” Safadi said.

These included a foreign intelligence agency contacting Prince Hamzah’s wife to organise a plane for the couple to leave Jordan, he said.

“Initial investigations showed these activities and movements had reached a stage that directly affected the security and stability of the country, but his majesty decided it was best to talk directly to Prince Hamzah, to deal with it within the family to prevent it from being exploited,” he said.

Safadi said the security services have asked for those involved in the plot to be referred to the state security court. He said some 14-16 people are under arrest.

Videos posted online showed a heavy police deployment in the Dabouq neighbourhood near the royal palaces.

In a video, Prince Hamzah said he was told to stay at home and not contact anyone, adding he was not part of any foreign conspiracy.

Prince Hamzah said he had been informed he was being punished for taking part in meetings in which the king had been criticised, though he said he was not accused of joining in the criticism.

What did the military say?

Army chief Yousef Huneiti denied reports of the prince being arrested but said he was told to “stop activities that are being exploited to target Jordan’s security and stability”.

He said the move was part of a broader, ongoing security investigation in which a former minister, a junior member of the royal family and unnamed others were detained.

The army chief also said the results of the investigation would be announced with transparency and clarity.

Who else was arrested?

The official Petra news agency 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.

The agency did not provide further details or names of the others who were arrested.

The Washington Post, citing a senior Middle Eastern intelligence official, said as many as 20 people were arrested.

Was there an agreement?

Prince Hamzah pledged allegiance to King Abdullah, the royal court said in a statement.

“I place myself in the hands of his majesty the king,” the letter read, according to the Jordanian royal court.

Prince Hamzah signed the letter after he met Prince Hassan, the king’s uncle, and other princes, the royal court said.

Jordan banned all news outlets and social media users from publishing any content related to Prince Hamzah on April 6.

International reaction

Jordan’s neighbours and allies supported the security moves.

The US said: “King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support.”

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Turkey, Iraq, and the Arab League all voiced support for King Abdullah II.

In a separate statement, Turkey said: “We do not see the stability and calm of Jordan, a country that is key to peace in the Middle East, as separate from Turkey’s stability and calm.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies