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Defence in Jordan trial asks court to invite Prince Hamza to testify

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By Reuters
Defence in trial about plot against Jordan monarchy asks court to bring Prince Hamza to testify
Defence in trial about plot against Jordan monarchy asks court to bring Prince Hamza to testify   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021
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By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN -Jordan’s Prince Hamza is among 25 witnesses who have been asked to testify by the defence team of a former confidant of King Abdullah who is on trial on charges of agitating to destabilise the monarchy, the defence’s lawyer said on Wednesday.

Mohamed Afif told Reuters it would be up to the court to decide whether to call Prince Hamza, the king’s half-brother, as a witness.

“The final decision is up to the court, this is the court’s jurisdiction and it has the final word on whether it will summon these witnesses or not,” Afif said.

The court will respond to the defence’s request in a session on Thursday, Afif said, after submitting a list of 25 potential witnesses on Wednesday.

Among them are Prime Minister Bisher al Khasawneh, two princes, a cabinet minister and several minor royals, he said.

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

The scandal shocked Jordan when it surfaced in March, because it appeared to expose rifts within the ruling Hashemite family that has been a beacon of stability in a volatile region in recent years.

Hamza, 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.

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

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

If convicted, they could face up to 30 years in prison.

Some legal experts and civic activists have questioned the legality of a trial where the main defendant Prince Hamza 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.

Officials say the prosecution evidence shows that Hamza wanted Awadallah to use his close relationship with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to seek support for Hamza’s bid to become king.

Awadallah, who challenged a conservative establishment opposed to his liberal policies and has close ties to senior U.S. officials, promised to lobby on Hamza’s behalf in Western capitals and Saudi Arabia, according to the charge sheet.

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