Jordan denies former royal court chief Bassem Awadallah left country amid coup probe

Jordan denies former royal court chief Bassem Awadallah left country amid coup probe
3 min read
08 April, 2021
Jordanian state news agency Petra confirmed Bassem Awadallah remains in custody, dismissing rumours that the former head of the royal court had left the country.
Awadallah served as the former head of the royal court [Getty]
Jordan’s former head of the royal court remains in custody amid ongoing investigations into an alleged coup attempt, state news agency reported on Thursday.

Bassem Awadallah has not left Jordanian borders, Petra, reported, dismissing circulating rumours of his alleged leave.

The former official and adviser to Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman was among a number of people arrested in response to the alleged plot last week that involved King Abdullah II's half-brother, former crown prince Hamzah bin Hussein.

He enjoys Saudi citizenship, having served as the monarch’s special envoy to Saudi Arabia and maintains close ties with the UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed. He also allegedly participated in “UAE-backed purchases” of Palestinian property in Jerusalem.

These relationships have fuelled speculation that the two Gulf monarchies were behind the supposed plot in Amman.

Although Riyadh denies it, sources told The Washington Post that a Saudi delegation wanted to take Awadallah out of the country with them.

In comments to the Post, an intelligence official from an unnamed Arab country said Saudi authorities were "worried about what he [Awadallah] might say", without elaborating.

The intelligence official also said Riyadh, one of the first countries to condemn the alleged coup attempt, requested the visit of the high-ranking delegation to Amman shortly after the coup allegations emerged on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Wikileaks cables that have since emerged also detail Awadallah's alleged ties to pro-Israel neoconservatives in the US administration and in one of them a US source says Awadallah considers the Palestinian right of return “more an issue of symbolism than one of practicality.”

On Wednesday, the Hashemite Kingdom’s deputy prime minister, Ayman Safadi, told The Wall Street Journal that “the movements and threats” which occurred “are [now] totally contained and under control.”

However, a number of Jordanians, including journalists and tribal groups have expressed anger about the handling of the coup and other evidence suggests that the crisis is far from over.

King Abdullah agreed to undergo family mediation led by his uncle Prince Hassan to mend relations with his half-brother Hamzah on Monday.

These efforts began shakily, a source told The Wall Street Journal, after Safadi appeared on television on Sunday to announce serious allegations against Hamzah.

After this, an audio recording emerged on Tuesday – purportedly of a secret meeting between Prince Hamzah and the army chief of staff on Saturday. 

Just hours after the tape surfaced, prosecutor general Hassan al-Abdallat announced a media blackout on information related to it.

Khaled al-Qudah, a member of the council of the Jordanian Press Association, criticised his country’s usage of such measures. 

He told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that “every Jordanian has the right to freely express their opinion.”

Other journalists and activists joined in on social media, discussing the impact this would have on local media, given that their international counterparts were not bound by the Jordanian regulations.

If the recording is genuine, this account of the meeting, at which Hamzah claims he was placed under house arrest, seems to discredit the official narrative.

In it, the army chief says the prince’s contact with people who “started talking more than they should,” was the reason for the restrictions imposed on him, suggesting that the Jordanian royal's contact with internal dissidents, rather than foreign collaborators were the issue.

Read more: Jordan's detention of 'coup plotters' is really a crackdown on dissent 

In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Jordan accused unnamed foreign parties of involvement.

Also on Tuesday, a New York Times article asked questions about Prince Hamzah’s whereabouts after news from him seemed to stop.

The Arabic-language hashtag #Where_is_Prince_Hamza began trending on Twitter in response to the article.

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