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Visit to Covid victims' families triggered Jordan royal rift: report

Prince Hamzah was put under house arrest on Saturday [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 April, 2021

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Prince Hamzah's visit was seen as undermining King Abdullah and Crown Prince Hussein, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Jordanian Prince Hamzah bin Hussein's visit to the families of victims who died in a controversial incident was the trigger for his house arrest in connection with an alleged coup attempt, according to a new report.

Hamzah, a former crown prince and half-brother to current King Abdullah, met with the families of nine Covid-19 patients who died after a government hospital ran out of oxygen.

The tragedy sparked protests in defiance of a nighttime curfew, with demonstrators calling for accountability over alleged medicial negligence and an end to draconian coronavirus restrictions.

Hamzah's visit to the victims' families on March 14 was the "straw that broke the camel's back", officials and palace insiders told Reuters.

The visit was viewed as an attempt to upstage and undermine the king and Crown Prince Hussein, who replaced Hamzah as heir designate in 2004.

Although King Abdullah and Prince Hamzah have publicly buried the hatchet - with Hamzah reportedly pledging allegiance to the royal family - insiders say the royal family feud could resurface as underlying tensions remain.

"We have to address the issues that prompted it... unemployment, Covid-19 management and poverty," Jawad al-Anani, a former royal court chief under the late King Hussein, told Reuters.

"These are the causes (of)... the frustration that pushes people to follow their own idols," Anani said.

Prince Hamzah's activities were a problem for King Abdullah before the hospital visit, sources said.

Of particular concern were the former crown prince's close ties to Jordan's tribal groups.

Earlier this year, Prince Hamzah made a number of visits to disgruntled tribal leaders who were part of a loose opposition group and criticised the king for failing to provide jobs and financial security. Those issues have been the frequent spark for protests in Jordan over the past decade.

Two members of the Huwaitat tribe told Reuters the prince had expressed sympathy for their view that the country was being mismanaged.

Those visits, which were seen in videos on social media, defied rules requiring royals to inform the palace of any public visits.

Prince Hamzah's discussions with discontented tribal leaders were widely seen in palace circles as an attempt to undermine the king and crown prince.

As the prince's popularity continued to grow, Jordanian authorities were "left... with no option", one senior political figure said.

It was then that Army chief of staff Yousef Huneiti arrived at Hamzah's residence in the capital Amman and placed the prince under house arrest.

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