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As Jordan seeks to quell royal feud, prince’s allies remain in custody

AMMAN, Jordan – Employees and associates of a Jordanian prince accused of plotting to undermine the government were still being held incommunicado by security forces on Tuesday, relatives said, questioning earlier claims by the royal court according to which she had solved a public and unusual problem. bitter rift between the prince, Hamzah bin Hussein, and his older half-brother, King Abdullah II.

Prince Hamzah’s chief of staff Yasser Majali and Mr Majali’s cousin Samir Majali were both arrested on Saturday, the day the government claimed the prince had been involved in a plot to destabilize stability of the Kingdom.

The Majali family, who come from one of the main Jordanian tribes, said on Tuesday the two were still being held in an unknown location, less than a day after the royal court issued a statement citing Prince Hamzah as saying that he had promised his loyalty to the king.

“Every time we call someone, they say we’ll get back to you,” Yasser’s brother Abdullah Majali said 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 on Tuesday morning. And the Jordanian government issued a gag order on Tuesday banning Jordanian media and social media users from discussing the case.

The developments are the latest twists and turns in a royal feud that exploded in public view over the weekend, shattering the family’s reputation for discretion and the country’s image as a rare haven of stability in a turbulent region. .

Jordan is a key partner in regional counterterrorism missions, a base for US troops and planes, and a major recipient of US aid. Bordering Syria, Iraq, Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, it is seen as an important interlocutor in regional diplomacy – and a mainstay of any potential Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Over the weekend, the Jordanian government arrested several of Prince Hamzah’s staff and associates and accused the prince himself of working with a former senior royal assistant and cabinet minister, Bassem Awadallah, to undermine the stability of the country. country.

Government statements suggested that those arrested had been involved in a foreign-backed coup attempt, but stopped before using such blunt language.

Prince Hamzah retaliated with two videos in which he denounced his brother’s government, but denied any involvement in a conspiracy and said he was under house arrest – an allegation the government denied.

On Monday evening, spirits appeared to have calmed down as the royal palace issued a written statement on behalf of the prince in which it pledged to “support His Majesty in his efforts to protect Jordan and his nation’s interests.”

But Tuesday’s uncertainty over the fate of the Majalis and the prince himself suggested tensions had not completely dissipated.

The government’s account was also called into question on Tuesday by the leak of a recording of a conversation last week between the prince and the head of the Jordanian army, Major General Yousef Huneiti.

In the recording, which was obtained by The New York Times and other media outlets, the general appears to acknowledge that the prince had not personally moved against the king, but instead attended social gatherings where critics of the government were issued by others.

With coronavirus-related deaths on the rise in Jordan, the prince’s allies say he has attended more vigils and funerals than usual.

“During these meetings, we talked about the performance of the government and the performance of the crown prince,” General Huneiti said, according to the recording.

“Is this conversation coming from me?” replied Prince Hamzah.

“No,” said the general. “People you used to meet. We both know, sir, that it crossed the red lines. People started talking more than they should. Therefore, I hope His Royal Highness remains and refrains from attending such occasions.

The Majali family have expressed doubts that relatives have ever been able to support an alleged plot to destabilize the kingdom.

Samir Majali had met Prince Hamzah a few times for lunch, in his official capacity as an elder of the tribe, said Samir’s cousin Hisham Majali.

Yasser was recovering at home after a heart attack followed by an episode of coronavirus, and had not been at work for several weeks, said his brother, Abdullah Majali.

Neither man was related to Mr. Awadallah, relatives said.

“They don’t even know him,” Abdullah said. “It is unacceptable that they combine their names.”

Many Jordanians also believe Prince Hamzah himself and Mr. Awadallah would be unlikely co-conspirators. Prince Hamzah is closely linked to the indigenous tribes of Jordan, such as the Majalis, while Mr. Awadallah, a former head of the royal court, is one of many Jordanian citizens from families of Palestinian descent.

The two men have different views on economic and political policy. And while Mr. Awadallah was often the target of criticism from the government during his tenure, the prince presents himself as a supporter of good governance.

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