Jordan’s Prince Hamzah may be called to testify in sedition trial

The royal at the centre of a high-profile court case has been accused of undermining the authority of King Abdullah II.

Jordan's Prince Hamzah
Defence lawyer Mohamed Afif said it would be up to the court to decide whether to call Prince Hamzah, the king's half-brother, as a witness [File: Reuters]

Jordan’s Prince Hamzah is among witnesses who may be asked to testify by the defence team of a former confidant of King Abdullah II who is on trial on charges of agitating to destabilise the monarchy.

On Wednesday, defence lawyer Mohamed Afif said it would be up to the court to decide whether to call Prince Hamzah, the king’s half-brother, as a witness.

“We will ask 25 witnesses, and among them Prince Hamzah,” Afif said.

The trial began last week behind closed doors, with authorities saying the proceedings were secret because of the sensitivity of the case.

Hamzah, the estranged prince at the centre of the trial, was accused of liaising with parties with foreign links to undermine the authority of the king.

The palace drama erupted in early April when Hamzah was placed under house arrest. It has since broken taboos in Jordan and sent shockwaves through foreign capitals, with Western powers rallying behind Abdullah, a strong ally in the region.

The case exposed rivalries in Jordan’s traditionally discreet Hashemite dynasty and spawned unprecedented public criticism of the monarch. The defendants are the most senior establishment figures to appear before the security court, which typically goes after drug offenders or members of armed groups.

In clashing narratives, Hamzah is either a champion of everyday Jordanians suffering from economic mismanagement and corruption, or a disgruntled royal who never forgave King Abdullah for taking away his title of the crown prince in 2004 and giving it to his eldest son.

He avoided punishment last April after pledging allegiance to the king, defusing a crisis that led to his house arrest.

Charges against the two defendants, Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, include agitating to undermine the kingdom’s political system, acts that threaten public security and sowing sedition. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Both carry sentences of up to 30 years in prison.

Some legal experts and civic activists have questioned the legality of a trial where the main defendant Prince Hamzah has not been charged. They say the special court is not independent of the judiciary and lacks the standards of a fair trial.

The authorities have said the trial process is fair.

Source: News Agencies