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Jordan refers ex-royal chief to security court over alleged foreign-linked conspiracy

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By Reuters
Biden to host Jordan's King Abdullah July 19: White House
Biden to host Jordan's King Abdullah July 19: White House   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN – Jordanian prosecutors on Wednesday referred the case of a former top confidant of King Abdullah and a minor royal to the state security court over accusations of conspiring to destabilise the country, state media said on Wednesday.

Judicial sources said the step paved the way for the trial of Bassem Awadallah, an ex-royal court chief and finance minister who played a big role in the drive to liberalise the economy, and Sherif Hassan Zaid, a distant relative of the king.

They were among about 15 people arrested on a day in early April when Prince Hamza was placed under house arrest over allegations that he liaised with foreign parties over a plot to destabilise Jordan, a close U.S. ally in the Middle East.

Proceedings against Prince Hamza, who along with Awadallah had been under investigation for some time, were later dropped after he pledged allegiance to King Abdullah.

Awadallah is among the closest economic advisers to Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a matter that complicated the judicial investigations, two senior politicians familiar with the affair told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Amman turned down Riyadh’s request to hand him over, they added, without elaborating.

The intrigue exposed the first serious rift within the ruling Hashemite family in many years and shook the image of the country as an island of stability in an unpredictable region.

And it prompted major Western and regional powers to rally behind King Abdullah in rare public support for a staunch U.S. ally that plays a pivotal role in regional security.

Prince Hamza was not seen as a direct threat to the king but his attempts to tap grievances of tribes who are the backbone of support for the royal family suggested he wanted to shore up his position after being removed from the royal succession.

King Abdullah, who released a number of Hamza’s personal aides in an act of clemency, described the crisis as “the most painful” during his 22 years of rule because it came from both inside the royal family and outside it.