Jordan court rejects defence bid to have Prince Hamza testify -lawyer

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Jordan's former Crown Prince Hamza bin Hussein attends official celebrations in Amman

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) -A Jordanian military court on Thursday rejected a defence request to have the kingdom's Prince Hamza and others testify as witnesses in a case against a former royal confidant accused of destabilising the monarchy, a defence lawyer said.

Prince Hamza, the estranged former heir to the throne at the centre of the case, was accused of liaising with disgruntled

members of powerful tribes who dominate the security forces and form the bedrock of support for the Hashemite monarchy.

​He avoided any legal process in April after pledging allegiance to the king, defusing a crisis that had led to his house arrest.

But charges remained against former royal confidant Bassem Awadallah, including agitating to undermine Jordan's political system, committing acts that threaten public security and sowing sedition. He has pleaded not guilty.

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

The authorities have said the trial process is fair.

Defence lawyer Mohammad Afif said the military court's decision not to take testimony from a list of potential defence witnesses - also including the prime minister and other princes - suggested the verdict could be swift.

"With no defence evidence, there could be a verdict within a week," he told Reuters. He did not elaborate on any reasons given by the court for refusing the defence request.

The military court has held its proceedings in secret since the trial started last week after authorities said public hearings would compromise national security.

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

He was getting Awadallah's advise on the right tweets to exploit a wave of street protests over growing hardship.

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

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

Officials say the prosecution evidence also shows that Hamza wanted Awadallah to use his close relationship with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to seek support for Hamza's bid to become king.

Awadallah, who challenged a conservative establishment opposed to his liberal policies and has close ties to senior U.S. officials, promised to lobby on Hamza's behalf in Western capitals and Saudi Arabia, according to the charge sheet.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by John Stonestreet and Andrew Heavens)

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