AMMAN—Jordan’s deputy prime minister said Jordanian authorities had neutralized what they said was a mounting threat posed by a former crown prince who had criticized the government of his half-brother, the king.
“In regards to the movements and threats they represented, these are totally contained and under control,” the minister,
told The Wall Street Journal.
But a leaked audio recording raised fresh questions about the government’s narrative and may have complicated mediation efforts by elder princes that had been expected to resolve a confrontation at the top of the usually discreet Arab monarchy. A government gag order announced Tuesday against local media discussing the royal-family breach also fed a sense that it remained unresolved.
A rift between King
and Prince Hamzah burst into the open over the weekend when the prince was effectively put under house arrest and then accused by the government of undermining national security by contacting opposition figures based abroad, unnamed foreign entities and a former Royal Court chief.
The prince has denied wrongdoing. Malik R. Dahlan, a longtime confidant of Prince Hamzah, declined to comment on Mr. Safadi’s remarks. Mr. Dahlan, who is a professional mediator and friend of the family, in an earlier statement called the incident the result of “clumsy actions” by Jordainan officials and referenced the value of mediation and the rule of law.
The events threaten to upend politics in Jordan, a U.S. ally that has long nurtured an image as an island of stability in the turbulent Middle East. The country—which borders Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia—collaborates on counterterrorism efforts with the U.S., which has come out in strong support of the king.
Prince Hamzah posed no immediate threat, Mr. Safadi said. Rather, he said, the security forces reacted to efforts they had observed by Prince Hamzah aimed at stoking popular discontent with Jordan’s sagging economy and presenting himself as an alternative ruler.
Family-mediation efforts that were disclosed Monday had been expected to reach a resolution after the Royal Court released a letter it said Prince Hamzah had signed affirming his support for the current king and crown prince. Those efforts had initially stumbled, a person familiar with the situation has said, when Mr. Safadi went on national television the day before to make the strongest public accusations against Prince Hamzah.
On Tuesday, the fate of the mediation again was thrown into doubt by the audio recording that people familiar with the situation said was of an encounter Saturday between Prince Hamzah and Jordan’s chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, who had visited his palace to ask him to stop meeting or communicating with people outside his immediate family and to stop tweeting. No mention was made then of a plot to destabilize the kingdom.
“You come here and tell me what to do and who to meet with from my fellow citizens, which people to meet from my homeland?” Prince Hamzah is heard saying in the recording as he orders the military chief’s car to be prepared to leave. “You come to my house and say this? Have you come here to threaten me?”
The recording was widely shared online, and the Journal has reviewed it.
King Abdullah in 2004 removed Prince Hamzah as crown prince, a position that put him next in line for the throne.
The monarch has faced rising public dissatisfaction as the government struggled to contain the coronavirus pandemic and limit its impact on an economy dependent on foreign tourism and investment.
Prince Hamzah, meanwhile, has at times given voice to popular frustrations in Jordan and maintained broad public support in part because of perceived resemblance to his late father, a foundational figure in Jordan’s history. He also has recently made more visits to Jordan’s tribes, a core base of support for the monarchy.
Mr. Safadi said the prince’s activities were aimed at destabilizing the country so that he could “ride on the wave of that. He thought this dissent will do the job.” Timelines and logistics were being discussed for such a campaign that stopped well short of a coup, he said.
Around 20 people, including some close to Prince Hamzah, were taken into custody by the security forces over the weekend; the authorities have said none of them belonged to the military.
Corrections & Amplifications
A previous version of this article misidentified a photo of Prince Ali Bin Hussein as Prince Hamzah. (Corrected on April 6, 2021.)
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