Jordan refuses US request to release dual citizen Bassam Awadallah

Jordan refuses US request to release dual citizen Bassam Awadallah
Lawyers claim the sentencing of US citizen Awadallah for his alleged role in the "seditious affair" of 2021 was unjust.
3 min read
12 September, 2023
The Jordanian government has denied claims that Awadallah's detention is unjust and said that his trial was conducted fairly. [Getty]

Jordan refused the US government's request to release dual Jordanian-US citizen Bassam Awadallah, who was accused of "plotting sedition" in April 2021, his lawyers announced on Sunday.

On 3 March, the US asked Jordan to release the former Minister of Finance, but six months after their demand, the Jordanian government declined to release him.

Awadallah was arrested in April 2021, along with former Crown Prince Hamzah and Sharif Hassan bin Zeid, under charges of attempting to destabilise the Jordanian kingdom and its monarchy.

The supposed coup attempt was the most significant political upheaval in Jordan in decades and was a rare instance of palace intrigue in the usually stable monarchy.

Awadallah was sentenced to 15 years in prison in what his US-based lawyers described as a "hasty, private, secret trial."

His lawyers have claimed that he has spent significant amounts of his two years in prison in solitary confinement.

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In March, he reportedly launched a hunger strike to protest the conditions of his imprisonment, though it is unclear how long his strike lasted.

Jordanian security representatives have denied the allegations of Awadallah's lawyers, insisting that the conditions of his detention are consistent with international standards.

"Mr. Awadallah was guaranteed due process in accordance with Jordanian laws and regulations. He has not been mistreated in any way, and allegations of torture of any kind are patently false. Mr. Awadallah's statements to the court during his trial were given voluntarily with no coercion," Jordan's Public Security Directorate said in a statement in February.

The Jordanian embassy in Washington did not respond to The New Arab's request for comment by the time of publishing.

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The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, a non-profit seeking to release political prisoners worldwide, said in August that it considers Awadallah's case as wrongful detention.

According to Mark Corallo, a media professional working with the Ashcroft Law Group representing Awadallah, representatives would be "speaking to members of the foreign relations committee and congressional leadership on both sides of the aisle" to secure Awadallah's release.

The Ashcroft Group has said that the US government should use the hefty amount of foreign aid it gives to "convince" the king of Jordan to release Awadallah.

"Members of Congress should look closely at Jordan's refusal to release Bassam Awadallah and scrutinise its mockery of due process and human rights in Dr Bassem Awadallah's case when the next financial aid package for Jordan comes up for consideration," former US Attorney General John Ashcroft who heads the Ashcroft Group, said in a statement.

Jordan is the third largest recipient of US aid, receiving US$1.45 billion in financial aid annually. It is also a close security partner of the US, hosting military bases and assisting in intelligence sharing and collection.

Jordanian King Abdullah II also enjoys a close relationship with US President Joe Biden. Abdullah has visited him three times during his administration, making him Biden's most frequent foreign guest.