Employees and associates of a Jordanian prince accused of plotting to undermine the government were still being held incommunicado by security forces on Tuesday, their relatives said, casting doubt on earlier claims by the royal court that it had resolved what was an unusually public and bitter rift.
The royal court released a statement on Monday saying that Prince Hamzah had pledged his loyalty to King Abdullah II, his older half-brother. But Prince Hamzah’s chief of staff, Yasser Majali, and Mr Majali’s cousin, Samir Majali, are still being held in an unknown location, according to their family, which comes from one of Jordan’s main tribes.
The two were arrested on Saturday, the day that the government claimed the prince had been involved in a plot to destabilise the kingdom.
“Every time we call someone, they say we will get back to you,” said Abdullah Majali, Yasser’s brother, in an account corroborated by a second senior member of the Majali family. “We still don’t know where they are.”
Prince Hamzah’s whereabouts were also unknown as of Tuesday morning. And the Jordanian government issued a gag order on Tuesday that barred Jordanian news outlets and social media users from discussing the case.
The developments are the latest twists in a royal feud that exploded into public view over the weekend, upending the royal family’s reputation for discretion and the country’s image as a haven of stability in a turbulent region.
Jordan is a key partner in regional counterterrorism missions, a base for troops and aircraft, and a major recipient of US aid. Bordering Syria, Iraq, Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, it is considered an important interlocutor in regional diplomacy – and a linchpin of any potential Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Over the weekend, the Jordanian government arrested several of Prince Hamzah’s staff members and associates, and accused the prince himself of working with a former senior royal aide and cabinet minister, Bassem Awadallah, to undermine the country’s stability.
The government’s statements hinted that those arrested had been involved in a foreign-backed coup attempt, but stopped short of using such direct language. Prince Hamzah fired back with two videos in which he excoriated his brother’s government but denied involvement in any plot and said he was being held under house arrest – an allegation the government denied.
Pledge of support
By Monday night, tempers seemed to have calmed, as the royal palace released a statement written in the prince’s name in which he pledged to “stand behind His Majesty in his efforts to protect Jordan”.
But the uncertainty on Tuesday about the whereabouts of the Majalis and the prince himself suggested that tensions had not completely dissipated.
The government’s narrative was also placed under question on Tuesday by the leak of a recording of a conversation last week between the prince and the head of the Jordanian military, Maj Gen Yousef Huneiti. In the recording, the general appears to acknowledge that the prince had not personally moved against the king but had instead attended social gatherings where criticism of the government was made by others.
With coronavirus-related deaths on the rise in Jordan, the prince’s allies say he had attended more wakes and funerals than usual. “During these meetings, there was talk about the government’s performance and the performance of the crown prince,” Maj Gen Huneiti said, according to the recording.
“This talk came from me?” replied Prince Hamzah. “No,” the general said. “From the people you were meeting with. We both know, sir, this crossed the red lines. People have begun speaking out more than they should. Therefore, I hope his royal highness abides and refrains from attending such occasions.” – New York Times