By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN – Jordan’s highest appeal court on Thursday upheld a guilty verdict against a former confidant of King Abdullah and a minor royal who were sentenced 15 years in jail on charges of attempting to destabilise the monarchy.
The cessation court said it confirmed evidence backing the sentence passed last July by a state security court against ex-royal court chief Bassem Awadallah, who played a big role in the drive to liberalise Jordan’s economy, and Sherif Hassan Zaid, a distant relative of King Abdullah.
“The court finds the acts committed were tangible activities that found their expression in ways meant to encourage and prod against the political system in Jordan,” the court said in its statement quashing their appeal request.
The two were arrested in early April when former heir to the throne Prince Hamza was placed under house arrest over allegations that he had liaised with foreign parties over a plot to destabilise Jordan, a close U.S. ally in the Middle East.
The affair shocked Jordan because it exposed rifts within the ruling Hashemite family that has been a beacon of stability in a volatile region in recent years.
Awadallah and Sharif Zaid were accused of pushing Hamza as an alternative to the king, committing acts that threatened public security and sowing sedition.
The pair pleaded not guilty and said they had nothing to do with the case.
U.S. lawyer Michael Sullivan, representing Awadallah, who also holds U.S. citizenship, alleged he was tortured and his confessions were extracted under duress.
Jordan’s public prosecutions office has said Awadallah was at no point threatened or tortured, nor did he make his testimony under coercion.
Human rights activists have denounced the trial of civilians in the state security court, a special court they say is not independent of the judiciary and lacks standards of a fair trial.
Awadallah, a former finance minister, is among the closest economic advisers to Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a matter that complicated the case, according to officials familiar with the affair.