Jordan ex-officials jailed for 15 years over coup plot

Jordan court jails two ex-officials for 15 years over alleged coup plot
3 min read
The lawyer of Bassem Awadallah, one of the convicted Jordanians, has accused the trial of being “completely unfair” and said his client was tortured while in detention.
Policemen stand guard outside the State Security Court, where the trial of two officials accused of helping Jordan's Prince Hamzah try to overthrow his half-brother King Abdullah took place [Getty]

A Jordanian state security court has sentenced two former officials to serve 15 years in prison over an alleged plot against the Western-allied monarchy involving the half-brother of King Abdullah II. 

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. 

They are alleged to have conspired with Prince Hamzah, the king’s half-brother, and to have sought foreign assistance. 

Lieutenant Colonel Muwafaq al-Masaeed, a military judge, announced the verdict on Monday, following a closed-door trial that consisted of just six hearings.  

The two were sentenced to 15 years for each of two felonies, but the judge said only one sentence would be imposed on them. 

The two were arrested in April over an alleged plot against the kingdom involving Prince Hamzah, the king's half-brother and a former crown prince. 

The royal family says it resolved the dispute with Hamzah, whose exact status is unknown but was never formally charged.  

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Awadallah's US lawyer says his client alleged he was tortured in Jordanian detention and fears for his life. 

Awadallah says he has been beaten, subjected to electrical shock and was threatened with future mistreatment “if he didn’t confess," Michael Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor hired by defendant Bassem Awadallah’s US-based family, told The Associated Press. 

Along with the mistreatment allegations, the closed-door trial before Jordan’s state security court “has been completely unfair,” Sullivan said. 

The court denied requests by Jordanian defence lawyers to call witnesses and prosecutors only shared purported transcripts, but not audio, from surveillance of the alleged plotters. 

The prosecutor’s office at the state security court disputed claims that the trial was unfair, saying Awadallah was given due process in line with Jordanian law and was not mistreated in any way. It said Awadallah only raised the torture allegations as the verdict neared. 

The alleged coup made international headlines in early April as a rare public display of discontentment between Jordan’s royal family members.   

Hamzah denied the allegations of conspiracy against him in video statements released in April after he was placed under house arrest, saying he was being silenced for speaking out against corruption and poor governance by the ruling system. 

The two Jordanians taken to court over the alleged coup both pleaded not guilty. 

Abdullah is expected in Washington on July 19, when he will be the first Arab leader to meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House.  

Jordan is a close US ally in the Middle East and is seen as a key partner in eventually reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. 

The Awadallah family urged the Biden administration to call for his release.