Jordan’s Prince Hamzah signs letter declaring loyalty to king

Palace says Hamzah signed letter affirming commitment to King Abdullah II, in sign that rift in royal family is easing.

Jordan's Crown Prince Hamzah
Jordan's former heir to the throne Prince Hamzah has been accused of being involved in a seditious conspiracy to 'destabilise the kingdom's security' [File: Ali Jarekji/Reuters]

Jordan’s Prince Hamzah has signed a letter in which he promised to abide by the traditions and approaches of the ruling Hashemite monarch family, the royal court said in a statement, as a rift that saw the prince placed under house arrest appeared to ease.

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

“I will remain committed to the constitution of the dear Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and I will always be of help and support to his majesty the king and his crown prince.”

Prince Hamzah, a former crown prince, signed the letter after he met with Prince Hassan, the king’s uncle, and other princes on Monday, the royal court said.

“The interests of the homeland must remain above every consideration. We must all stand behind the king in his efforts to protect Jordan and its national interests,” the letter said.

The signed letter came after King Abdullah II agreed to enter mediation to heal a rift within the royal family, the palace said.

The government has accused Prince Hamzah of involvement in a seditious conspiracy to “destabilise the kingdom’s security”, and detained him along with at least 16 other people, including Bassem Awadallah, a former cabinet minister and one-time head of the royal court.

The palace said Abdullah asked his paternal uncle, Prince Hassan, to “handle the question of Prince Hamzah within the framework of the Hashemite (ruling) family”.

On Sunday, Jordanian authorities said they had foiled the “malicious plot” by Prince Hamzah with foreign help. Hamzah has denied any role and says he is being targeted for speaking out against corruption and poor governance.

Palace intrigue

There was no independent word from Prince Hamzah himself, who says he has been placed under house arrest inside his Amman palace. Earlier, he struck a defiant tone, insisting he would continue to defy government threats ordering him to stay at home and refrain from public statements.

“I don’t want to make moves and escalate now, but of course I’m not going to obey when they say: ‘You can’t go out, you can’t tweet, you can’t communicate with people, you’re only allowed to see your family,'” the 41-year-old said in an audio recording posted on Twitter late on Sunday.

The recording by Hamzah was part of a palace intrigue that erupted over the weekend in Jordan, seen by the West as a stable ally in a volatile region.

US and Arab governments quickly sided with King Abdullah following the arrests on Saturday, a reflection of Jordan’s strategic importance.

Hamzah – whom Abdullah stripped of the title of crown prince in 2004 – has accused Jordan’s leadership of corruption, nepotism and authoritarian rule.

In a video he sent to the BBC on Saturday, he lashed out at “incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last 15 to 20 years and has been getting worse”.

“No one is able to speak or express opinion on anything without being bullied, arrested, harassed and threatened,” he said.

Prince Hamzah is not seen as a threat to the monarchy, which enjoys the support of the army and security services, but has gained sympathy among Jordanians sceptical of the government’s accusations about his foreign links, saying it was a campaign to defame him.

“This is character assassination without evidence,” said Ali R al-Tarawneh in a tweet.

A supporter identified only as Razan said on Twitter there was “no good in a country that imprisons its prince.”

In the streets of Jordan’s capital, Amman, people called for a swift resolution of the royal feud.

“I was surprised as everyone else with this disturbing news. It really caused pain to everyone,” Ahmad al-Yamani told Al Jazeera. “We wish for prosperity and progress for Jordan, and for the issues to be resolved as the king called for, within the royal family.”

Strategic importance

Jordan’s army chief of staff, General Yousef Huneiti, said on Monday the country’s armed forces and security agencies “have the power and experience” to deal with any developments that might happen internally or in the region.

He made his comments while taking part in Shield of the Nation, a drill that included several brigades, special forces, border guards and the Royal Air Force in the eastern region of the kingdom, the state news agency, Petra, said.

Huneiti said the troops will confront anyone who “tries to endanger the nation’s security, terrify its citizens and threatens the security and stability of the kingdom”.

Prince Hamzah’s unprecedented criticism of the ruling class – without naming the king – could lend support to growing complaints about poor governance and human rights abuses in Jordan.

Public anger has increased since nine COVID-19 patients died when oxygen ran out in a newly built state hospital, exposing negligence blamed on official mismanagement and corruption.

Protests were broken up with tear gas.

Prince Hamzah went to the homes of those who died to pay condolences, hoping to upstage the monarch who had earlier gone to the hospital to defuse anger, officials say. It was the first such open rift in the royal family in many years.

Abdullah and Hamzah are both sons of King Hussein, who remains a beloved figure two decades after his death. Upon ascending to the throne in 1999, Abdullah named Hamzah as crown prince, only to revoke the title five years later. Hassan, the uncle, also had been crown prince but was removed shortly before Hussein’s death.

While Abdullah and Hamzah are said to have good relations generally, Hamzah recently had forged ties with powerful tribal leaders in a move seen as a threat to the king.

Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Amman, said many Jordanians are feeling “angry and fustrated over the deteriorating economy”.

She added, “The dispute among the royal half-brothers may have ended, at least for now. But concerns over a deepening divide and economic plight won’t be resolved so swiftly.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies