Jordan arrests former royal assistants for ‘security reasons’


Jordan’s King Abdullah II’s half-brother was asked to “stop certain movements and activities used to target Jordan’s security and stability,” the country’s supreme general said Saturday amid the arrest of former senior officials near the ruling monarchy.

The details remained murky, but all internal unrest would cause concern among the United States and other Western countries, which have long seen Jordan’s ruling monarchy as an important military ally and a bastion of stability in a volatile region.

General Yousef Huneiti, the army’s chief of staff, denied reports that Prince Hamzah – the king’s half-brother who was also a former crown prince – had been arrested. He said an investigation was still ongoing and its findings would be made public “in a transparent and clear manner.”

“No one is above the law and Jordan’s security and stability are paramount,” he told the official Petra news agency.

Petra had previously reported that two senior officials who had previously worked for the palace “and others” had been arrested for “security reasons” without giving further details.

The Petra report says that Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, the former royal envoy to Saudi Arabia, and Bassem Ibrahim Awadallah, the former head of the royal court, were arrested. Awadallah also previously served as Minister of Planning and Minister of Finance.

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

“We are closely following the reports and are in contact with Jordanian officials,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price. “King Abdullah is a key partner in the United States, and he has our full support.”

Abdullah has ruled Jordan since 1999, killing his father, King Hussein, who ruled the country for nearly half a century. The king has cultivated close ties with the United States and other Western leaders over the years, and Jordan was an important ally in the war against the Islamic State. The country borders Israel, the occupied West Bank, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Jordan’s economy has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The country, with a population of about 10 million, also hosts more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.

Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994, but relations have been strained in recent years, largely due to differences linked to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. Jordan is home to more than 2 million Palestinian refugees, most of whom have Jordanian citizenship.

Abdullah abolished his half-brother Hamzah as crown prince in 2004 and said he had decided to “release” him “from the restrictions on the crown prince’s position to give you the freedom to work and carry out any mission or responsibility I entrust to you.”

The current Crown Prince is Abdullah’s eldest son, Hussein, 26 years old.

Abdullah had chosen Hamzah as his crown prince hours after their father died of cancer in February 1999. The designation was out of respect for Hussein, who is known to have favored Hamzah the most among his 11 children from four marriages.

Abdullah and Hamzah have not shown any open rivalry over the years.