A Jordanian court has sentenced a former royal aide and a minor royal to 15 years in jail on charges of attempting to destabilise the monarchy.
Bassem Awadallah, who has US citizenship and once served as a top aide to King Abdullah II, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family, were found guilty of “sedition and incitement charges” on Monday.
The court said it had confirmed evidence backing the charges against the pair and that they had both been determined to harm the monarchy by pushing former heir to the throne Prince Hamzah as an alternative to the king.
The charges shocked Jordan because they exposed rifts within the ruling Hashemite family that has been a beacon of stability in a volatile region in recent years.
Awadallah, a former finance minister who was a driving force behind Jordan’s liberal economic reforms, was charged with agitating to undermine the political system and committing acts that threaten public security and sowing sedition.
He pleaded not guilty and has said he had nothing to do with the case.
The pair were also alleged to have sought foreign assistance. They denied the charges, and Alaa al-Khasawneh, a lawyer for Sharif, said they would appeal the verdict.
In clashing narratives, Hamzah is either a champion of everyday Jordanians suffering from economic mismanagement and corruption, or a disgruntled royal who never forgave King Abdullah for taking away his title of the crown prince in 2004 and giving it to his eldest son. His popularity stems from ties he has nurtured with Jordan’s tribes, the bedrock of Hashemite rule.
The estranged prince avoided punishment last April after pledging allegiance to the king, defusing a crisis that had led to his house arrest. In a series of video statements, he said he was being silenced for speaking out against corruption and poor governance by the ruling system.
While the former crown prince himself was not on trial, the 13-page charge sheet said Hamzah, 41, “was determined to fulfil his personal ambition to rule, in violation of the Hashemite constitution and customs”.
Lt Col Muwafaq al-Masaeed, a military judge, announced the verdict following a closed-door trial that consisted of just six hearings.
Awadallah and his co-defendant had been on trial since June 21 and had faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Images released by authorities showed the two men, in light blue prison uniforms, being escorted into the court on Monday by security personnel in black uniforms.
Before the verdict was announced, Michael Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor hired by Awadallah’s US-based family, told The Associated Press that the trial was “completely unfair”.
Awadallah says he has been beaten, subjected to electric shock and was threatened with future mistreatment “if he didn’t confess,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan, a former US attorney for Massachusetts and former acting director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said any conviction would be appealed.