Jordan court sets Monday for verdict in plot to destabilise monarchy - source

·2-min read

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) -Jordan's security court will hand down its verdict in a behind-closed-doors trial of a former royal confidant accused of destabilising the monarchy on Monday, an official source said.

The prosecution accuses former finance minister Bassem Awadallah, along with a minor royal, of backing the aspirations of the former heir to the throne, Prince Hamza, to replace the monarch.

Awadallah is charged with agitating to undermine Jordan's political system and committing acts that threaten public security and sowing sedition. He has pleaded not guilty and said he had nothing to do with the case.

The charges shocked Jordan because they appear to expose rifts within the ruling Hashemite family that has been a beacon of stability in a volatile region in recent years.

The estranged prince, who is also the half-brother of King Abdullah, was accused of liaising with disgruntled members of powerful tribes who dominate the security forces and form the bedrock of support for the monarchy.

Hamza avoided punishment last April after pledging allegiance to the king, defusing a crisis that had led to his house arrest.

The trial of Awadallah, the driving force behind the country's liberal economic reforms, began just over two weeks ago. The court rejected a defence request to bring more than two dozen witnesses to testify, including Hamza.

The prosecution case relies on voice messages intercepted by intelligence forces that allegedly show how Hamza was waiting for the right moment to act.

They say he was getting Awadallah's advice on the right tweets to exploit a wave of street protests over growing hardship.

The defence says there is no evidence of any plot that relied on accomplices within the army and security forces. The authorities say they nipped a potential coup in the bud.

King Abdullah said the crisis was “the most painful” in his more than two decades in power as it came from both inside the royal family and outside it.

Awadallah, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin drawn from outside the traditional palace entourage who challenged the conservative political establishment, allegedly advised Hamza on critical tweets the prince wanted to send to further his ambitions.

Legal experts have questioned the legality of a trial when the man at the centre of the case, Hamza, is not in the dock.

They also say the special court lacks independence since it was appointed by the government. But officials say the trial process is fair and national security concerns are behind holding its sessions in secret.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Jon Boyle and Nick Macfie)

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