Jordan’s King Abdullah claimed on Wednesday he had called off an attempted sedition and restored stability to the vital Western ally in the Middle East, even as his half-brother Prince Hamzah remained out of sight with 18 others people arrested over the weekend.
In his first public statement since the family quarrel When it came to light, Abdullah said he was shocked and saddened that a brother was involved, but also added that the former crown prince had remained “in his palace, under my care”.
The cautious wording of what is essentially the house arrest of a senior royal came as supporters of Prince Hamzah used social media to demand news of his plight, turning to radio stations to voice their displeasure about their economic woes – a proxy for criticism of the government in an autocratic country where insulting the king is illegal.
The head of state insisted that the dispute had been resolved within the family, highlighting the intervention of their uncle Prince Hassan, himself crown prince before being demoted in 1999, and a declaration signed by Hamzah promising loyalty to the king.
The king did not refer by name to his former finance minister and chief of staff, Bassem Awadallah, who was arrested alongside at least 17 other people, or to unsubstantiated suggestions from senior officials that foreign parties were involved in the attempt to destabilize the Hashemite Kingdom.
“The challenge of the past few days was neither the most difficult nor the most dangerous for the stability of our nation, but it was the most painful because those who participated in the sedition came from our home,” said Abdullah. in the press release. which was read by a national television presenter rather than by the king himself.
The king’s fluency in classical Arabic has become a crucial issue in comparisons between himself and Prince Hamzah, whom he dismissed as crown prince in 2004. The prince’s Arabic is modeled on that of his eloquent late father, King Hussein, still revered in Jordan, while the current monarch is described by critics as more crass, given his Western upbringing.
“He didn’t even speak to us in our language,” said a senior official from the Majali tribe who staged protests in the south of the country to demand the release of tribal members from Prince Hamzah’s retinue, including his chief of staff. “Instead of coming to meet us, he sends us letters.
Four family members of the detainees and one lawyer for a fifth said they had not been informed of where the arrested people were being held. The whereabouts of Awadallah also remain unknown, and none of them have been charged or brought to court.
The rare public feud shook the vital Western ally and highlighted the stress within the Hashemite family, which traces its lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad, as the Jordanian economy crumbles.
The coronavirus pandemic has worsened unemployment, even as public debt remains uncomfortably high in a country deeply dependent on foreign aid, particularly the United States.
Abdullah spoke of the economic challenges that accompanied this royal crisis, but did not describe any changes in economic policy, nor in the political reforms Prince Hamzah had mentioned in videos leaked over the weekend from his palace.