Former Crown Prince Hamzah bin Hussein was placed under house arrest Saturday during a security sweep against forces Jordanian officials have since alleged were plotting to destabilise the country and depose the king. Hamzah has openly criticised the current government over alleged corruption, incompetence and a “breakdown of governance”.
Jordan’s embattled Prince Hamzah bin Hussein has released a new audio recording in which he promised to disobey orders from the security services not to communicate with the outside world.
“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 members’. When an army chief of staff says this, this is something that I think is unacceptable”, a voice thought to be Hamzah’s says in an Arabic language recording posted on Twitter late Sunday.
“The army chief of staff came to me and issued threats in the name of heads of security agencies”, the recording added. “I recorded his comments and distributed them to my acquaintances abroad as well as my family in case something happens”.
A source said to be close to the prince confirmed the recording’s authenticity to the Associated Press.
Royal Coup Plot
Hamzah is at the centre of an alleged plot to destabilise the government of his half-brother – King Abdullah II, who sidelined his royal relative and stripped him of the title of crown prince in 2004, five years after appointing him to that position in 1999 on the advice of their late father, King Hussein of Jordan. Abdullah II named his son Hussein bin Abdullah as crown prince in Hamzah’s place.
The 41-year-old prince, who has no formal post in government, was confined to his Amman palace on Saturday, and reported that authorities tried to bar him from communicating with the outside world, cutting his phone lines and internet connection and arresting several of his friends.
On Sunday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told reporters that Jordan’s military and intelligence services had discovered that Hamzah and his associates, including Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family and envoy to Saudi Arabia, Bassem Ibrahim Awadallah, a veteran adviser to the royal family, and others have been in contact with unnamed foreign intelligence agencies seeking to unseat King Abdullah II. Safadi did not name the foreign intelligence services involved in the plot. The minister indicated that the prince had reportedly contacted Jordanian opposition forces and activists abroad, and been tapped by an unnamed intelligence service ready to provide a plane to fly Hamzah and his immediate family out of the country.
Local media reported late Sunday that a “former Mossad agent” offered to fly Hamzah and his wife out of Jordan. The ex-agent, Roy Shaposhnik, confirmed to Axios that he indeed offered assistance to Hamzah and his family, but dismissed allegations of involvement in any alleged coup plot.
Queen Noor, Hamzah’s American-born mother and widow of the late King Hussein, dismissed the allegations made against her son on Sunday, tweeting that she was “praying that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this wicked slander”, without elaborating.
In a video released to the BBC on Saturday, Hamzah said that he was not the one responsible “for the breakdown in governance, for the corruption, and for the incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last 15 to 20 years”, and went on to blame authorities for the decline of Jordan’s education, healthcare system, and social freedoms. He denied being part of any conspiracy or foreign backed group, suggesting such labels are applied to anyone critical of the government.
Amid the coup plot claims, King Abdullah II received diplomatic support from the United States, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf sheikdoms, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel. Iran’s Foreign Ministry expressed opposition “to any internal instability and foreign interference”, and alleged that any “internal tension and instability in the West Asian region would be in favour of the Zionist regime”.
Jordan is known to be one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, receiving billions of dollars in US aid and hosting thousands of US troops, ostensibly for counterterrorism and security operations. Since the signing of a 1994 peace treaty, Amman has also enjoyed close ties with Israel, becoming the second member of the Arab League to establish ties with Tel Aviv. Tensions between the neighbours have escalated in recent weeks, however, with the Netanyahu government delaying approval of Jordan’s request for water supplies amid a drought last week. The two countries also publicly feuded in March after Amman barred Netanyahu’s jet from flying through Jordanian airspace, forcing him to cancel his trip to the United Arab Emirates, after Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah was forced to cancel his visit to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and al-Aqsa Mosque complex amid a dispute over his security detail.