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As Jordan seeks to quell royal feud, allies of prince remain in detention

In this Nov. 28, 2006, file photo, Prince Hamzah Bin Al-Hussein, right, and Prince Hashem Bin Al-Hussein, left, half brothers of King Abdullah II of Jordan, attended the opening of the parliament in Amman, Jordan.
In this Nov. 28, 2006, file photo, Prince Hamzah Bin Al-Hussein, right, and Prince Hashem Bin Al-Hussein, left, half brothers of King Abdullah II of Jordan, attended the opening of the parliament in Amman, Jordan.MOHAMMAD ABU GHOSH/Associated Press

AMMAN, Jordan — Employees and associates of a Jordanian prince accused of plotting to undermine the government were still being held incommunicado by security forces Tuesday, their relatives said, casting doubt on earlier claims by the royal court that it had resolved an unusually public and bitter rift.

The royal court released a statement on Monday saying that the prince, Hamzah bin Hussein, had pledged his loyalty to King Abdullah II, his older half brother. But Hamzah’s chief of staff, Yasser Majali, and Majali’s cousin, Samir Majali, are still being held in an unknown location, according to their family, which comes from one of Jordan’s main tribes.


The two were among 18 people arrested Saturday, the day that the government claimed that the prince had been involved in a plot to destabilize the kingdom.

“Every time we call someone, they say we will get back to you,” Abdullah Majali, Yasser’s brother, said in an account corroborated by a second senior member of the Majali family. “We still don’t know where they are.”

Hamzah himself was in his palace on Tuesday, with restricted access to communication, according to a person briefed on his whereabouts. And the Jordanian government issued a gag order Tuesday that barred Jordanian news outlets and social media users from discussing the case.

The developments are the latest twists in a royal feud that exploded into public view over the weekend, upending the family’s reputation for discretion and the country’s image as a rare haven of stability in a turbulent region.

Jordan is a key partner in regional counterterrorism missions, a base for U.S. troops and aircraft, and a major recipient of U.S. aid. Bordering Syria, Iraq, Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, it is considered an important interlocutor in regional diplomacy — and a linchpin of any potential Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.


Over the weekend, the Jordanian government arrested several of Hamzah’s staff members and associates, and accused the prince himself of working with a former senior royal aide and Cabinet minister, Bassem Awadallah, to undermine the country’s stability.

The government’s statements hinted that those arrested had been involved in a foreign-backed coup attempt but stopped short of using such direct language.

Hamzah fired back with two videos in which he excoriated his brother’s government but denied involvement in any plot and said he was being held under house arrest — an allegation the government denied.

By Monday night, tempers seemed to have calmed, as the royal palace released a statement written in the prince’s name in which he pledged to “stand behind His Majesty in his efforts to protect Jordan and its interests of the nation.”

But the uncertainty Tuesday about the whereabouts of the Majalis and the prince himself suggested that tensions had not completely dissipated.

The government’s narrative was also placed under question Tuesday by the leak of a recording of a conversation last week between the prince and the head of the Jordanian military, Maj. Gen. Yousef Huneiti.

In the recording, which was obtained by The New York Times and other media outlets, the general appears to acknowledge that the prince had not personally moved against the king but had instead attended social gatherings where criticism of the government was made by others.

With coronavirus-related deaths on the rise in Jordan, the prince’s allies say he had attended more wakes and funerals than usual.


“During these meetings, there was talk about the government’s performance and the performance of the crown prince,” Huneiti said, according to the recording.

“This talk came from me?” replied Hamzah.

“No,” the general said. “From the people you were meeting with. We both know, sir, this crossed the red lines. People have begun speaking out more than they should. Therefore, I hope his royal highness abides and refrains from attending such occasions.”

The Majali family expressed doubt that any relatives were ever even in a position to support a supposed plot to destabilize the kingdom.

Samir Majali had met just a few times with Hamzah for lunch, in his formal capacity as a tribal elder, said Samir’s cousin Hisham Majali.

Yasser Majali had been convalescing at home after a heart attack followed by a bout of the coronavirus and had not been to work in several weeks, his brother, Abdullah Majali, said.

Neither man had a connection to Awadallah, their relatives said.

“They don’t even know him,” Abdullah Majali said. “It’s unacceptable that they would link their names.”

Many Jordanians also believe that Hamzah himself and Awadallah would be unlikely co-conspirators. Hamzah is closely tied with Jordan’s Indigenous tribes, like the Majalis, while Awadallah, a former head of the royal court, is one of the many Jordanian citizens from families of Palestinian origin.

The pair have different views on economic and political policy. And while Awadallah was often a target of government critics while he was in office, the prince presents himself as a proponent of good governance.