Jordan ‘coup plot’ suspects plead not guilty as trial opens: lawyer
Two officials accused of helping Jordan’s Prince Hamzah try to overthrow his half-brother King Abdullah II have pleaded not guilty, one of their lawyers said Monday as the trial began.
Former royal court chief Bassem Awadallah, who also holds Saudi nationality, and a former special envoy to Riyadh, Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, are charged with attempting to “destabilise the kingdom’s security”, according to court documents.
The trial began behind closed doors at the State Security Court and will continue Tuesday, an official said.
According to state television, after the charges were read, the court heard two out of a total of six witnesses — four military personnel and two civilians.
Awadallah’s lawyer Mohammad Afif said the defendants both pleaded not guilty.
A video shared on social media showed Awadallah arriving at the court wearing a plain blue prison uniform and a mask, his hands cuffed behind his back, escorted by an anti-terror officer.
Hamzah, who is accused of attempting to overthrow the king and of seeking help from Saudi Arabia to do so, is not facing trial.
Hamzah, 41, “was determined to satisfy his personal ambition to rule, in violation of the constitution and Hashemite (Jordanian ruling family) custom,” according to an indictment released on June 13.
“To succeed, he sought to exploit the concerns and problems of the population and to arouse sedition and frustration in society,” it added.
After the unprecedented palace crisis in April, Hamzah pledged allegiance to Abdullah.
Authorities had on April 4 announced the arrest of 18 people allegedly involved in a plot to “undermine Jordan’s security and stability”.
Sixteen were later released after senior figures and tribal chiefs pleaded with the king to pardon them.
The remaining defendants, Awadallah and Bin Zaid, could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty, their lawyers said.
Abdullah had named Hamzah heir to the throne in 1999 at the request of their father, King Hussein.
But Hamzah was later sidelined in favour of Abdullah’s eldest son, also named Hussein. AFP