Jordanian prince makes first public appearance since arrest

DailyTimes  |  Apr 12, 2021

Jordan’s Prince Hamzah on Sunday made his first public appearance since he was placed under house arrest last week, attending a ceremony with King Abdullah II in what appeared to be an attempted show of unity on a major Jordanian holiday.

But it remained unclear whether the king and his popular half brother had put aside the differences that escalated last week into the most serious public rift in the ruling family in decades.

Hamzah joined members of the Jordanian royal family marking the centenary of the establishment of the Emirate of Transjordan, a British protectorate that preceded the kingdom. The royal palace released a photo and video with Abdullah, Hamzah, Crown Prince Hussein and other dignitaries at the grave of King Talal in Amman, Jordan’s capital.

It was the first time that Hamzah was seen in public since he was placed under a form of house arrest on April 3 following accusations that he was involved in a “malicious plot” to destabilize the kingdom. In statements leaked to the media, Hamzah denied the accusations and accused the country’s government of corruption and incompetence.

Abdullah subsequently said authorities had thwarted an attempt at sedition involving his half brother and some 18 suspects, while saying he was angry and in shock. Abdullah also suggested there was continued control over Hamzah’s movements, saying the prince was “with his family at his palace, under my care.”

Authorities have imposed a sweeping gag order on any coverage of the royal dispute in a sign of how sensitive they are to how it is perceived. The gag order and the king´s willingness to sanction his own brother also reaffirmed what Jordanians understand as their “red line” – an absolute ban on criticizing the monarch or the royal family.

The appearance by Hamzah indicated that he was safe, but it remained unclear whether he had come voluntarily or truly been released from the restrictions on his movement. Hamzah, wearing a suit, traditional headdress and blue surgical mask, joined his relatives in prayers but did not comment.

There also has been no sign that authorities have released up to 18 other detainees, including members of one of the powerful tribes on which the monarchy has historically relied.

Even before the palace drama, Jordan was grappling with an economic crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, with one in four people out of work. Longstanding complaints about corruption and misrule have fueled scattered protests in recent months.

At the same time, the region´s strategic landscape is shifting as powerful Gulf states pursue closer ties with Israel, potentially undermining Jordan´s role in the Middle East peace process.

The United States, along with regional allies, have all rallied behind the king. Jordan has long been seen as a relatively stable western ally in the Middle East in a turbulent region. But the past year of the coronavirus has rocked the country´s largely tourism-dependent economy.

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