Did Jordan prevent Parliament from getting to the bottom of the conspiracy issue?

MPs question the official version of the arrest of Bassem Awadallah.
Thursday 15/04/2021
A file picture shows Jordanian parliament in session. (AFP)
A file picture shows Jordanian parliament in session. (AFP)

AMMAN--MPs questioned the official version put out by by the Jordanian authorities regarding the arrest of the former head of the royal court, Bassem Awadallah, and a number of others in the case that has become known as the plot against Jordan’s stability and security.

The case involved people close to Prince Hamzah, the half-brother of King Abdullah II.

The Jordanian authorities sought to address the issue of Prince Hamzah outside the judiciary and within the royal family, after a mediation led by Prince Hassan bin Talal with the purpose of restoring the calm between the king and the former crown prince, who had often criticised “misrule” and the spread of “corruption” in the country.

Despite numerous government attempts to present the case as a “conspiracy”, questions posed by the MPs in a closed meeting attended by Jordanian Prime Minister Bishr al-Khasawneh with members of the House of Representatives and notables did not receive satisfactory answers that would dispel ambiguities in the case.

Representative Osama al-Ajarmah, who is a member of the Freedoms Committee in the Jordanian Parliament, said that the government narrative described Bassem Awadallah as a key player in a major conspiracy against government. Ajaramah said that it is the right of the House of Representatives, as a partner in the ruling system, to get to the bottom of Awadallah’s role and his investigation by the Jordanian state. .

Ajarmah told  The Arab Weekly that the House of Representatives has been systematically excluded from this issue since the beginning of the crisis.

He wondered,  “Is it a fear that the House of Representatives will know the facts or is it the fear of disclosure that the allegations of alleged plot are fictitious and do not exist in reality?”.

The Jordanian parliamentarian said “the exclusion of the House of Representatives is what fuelled many of the suspicions and doubts about the issue,” adding, “When you exclude me that leads me to believe there is something wrong.”

The Jordanian prime minister had met a few days ago with members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to brief them on the progress of the investigations and keep them abreast of the case.

Ajarmah made public a letter that he addressed to Parliament Speaker Abdel Moneim al-Awdat containing a question to the prime minister about the location of Awadallah and demanding that the deputies be allowed to ascertain whether the latter is in prison or on Jordanian soil.

 

Analysts wondered about the reasons the prime minister refused at the closed meeting to answer the MPs questions on Awadallah’s whereabouts and the circumstances of his detention since it was widely alleged  in Jordan that he was the “head of the conspiracy”.

On Wednesday the State Security Court prosecutor in Amman began investigating all the defendants in the case, according to official media sources.

Lawyer Assem al-Omari, who represents six of the detainees, considered the arrest a form of forced disappearance.

Lawyer Ziyad al-Majali said, “Until now, we do not have clear evidence or clarifications about the whereabouts of (Yasser) al-Majali and Awadallah or the official body that is in charge of investigating them. Most of the detainees are retired military personnel, and we were unable to know anything about the investigative procedures.”

The Jordanian authorities have accused Prince Hamzah and between 14 to 20 other individuals of being involved in “wicked plans” aimed at “destabilising the security and stability of Jordan,” before issuing a statement from the Jordanian royal court confirming that the case of Prince Hamzah will be resolved under the auspices of King Abdullah II, within the Hashemite family fold.

Statements attributed to Khasawneh’s during his closed meeting with members of the Senate pointed out that “Basem Awadallah has been in contact with Prince Hamzah and coordinated with him for more than a year, and there was talk of incitement against King Abdullah II and violating the constitution.”

MP Ajarmah asked, “Was there a great danger from the type of contacts between  Prince Hamzah’s with the Jordanian people,” and added, “Did they feel that the prince is closest to the people?”

He asserted that, “There is a crisis of confidence today between the Jordanian people and the state in general.”

The Jordanian monarch  had said a few days ago that “sedition has ended,” and that the case of Prince Hamzah “is under his care.”

Prince Hamzah appeared in Jordan’s celebration of its centenary, alongside King Abdullah II, the crown prince and other princes from the Hashemite family.

Until now, the nature of the plots mentioned by the Jordanian authorities is not known. Information about the issue was not allowed to be published in the media, but deputies who met the prime minister said that he “denied the existence of a coup and did not use the term conspiracy” during his meeting with members of the upper and lower houses of parliament.

MP Khalil Attiyah said that Khasawneh “denied the existence of a coup attempt and used the phrase” attempts to destabilise security and stability “, during his last meeting.

The Jordanian authorities referred the defendants in the case to the Public Prosecutor, among them Bassem Awadallah and Hassan bin Zayed.

The statements of MPs after the closed meeting raised many questions, inside and outside Jordan, about the nature of the events that occurred in the Kingdom and triggered a wide campaign of arrests that targeted political figures and people close to Prince Hamzah and a member of the royal family.

An audio recording posted on social media containing a conversation between Prince Hamzah and the chief of staff of the Jordanian army revealed that the army commander called on the prince to stop “posting tweets and holding meetings and visits,” contrary to what he said later that he had asked him to put an end to activities aimed at destabilising Jordan’s stability and security.