Jordan ex-officials handed jail terms

They’re convicted of conspiring to topple King Abdullah in favour of his brother

A Jordanian court on Monday sentenced two former officials to 15 years in jail after finding them guilty of a coup plot that sparked a rare crisis in a kingdom seen as a pillar of stability in the region.

Former royal court chief Bassem Awadallah and an ex-envoy to Saudi Arabia, Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, had been convicted of conspiring to topple King Abdullah II in favour of his half-brother Prince Hamzah.

The former Crown Prince himself was not charged in the trial, but the charge sheet said he was "determined to fulfil his personal ambition to rule, in violation of the Hashemite constitution and customs".

The trial took place behind closed doors at the State Security Court, a military tribunal that also includes civilian judges.

But on Monday, journalists were allowed to watch footage of the ruling via video link from a tent set up outside the court.

Delivering the ruling, Judge Muwaffaq al-Masaid noted the men had been friends for 20 years and were close to Prince Hamzah.

‘Hostile ideas’

He said they had tried to put into action “ideas that are hostile to the existing political system in the kingdom and his majesty King Abdullah”.

The men had tried “to create chaos, sedition and divisions within Jordanian society and spread hateful discourse towards the political system, threatening the safety and security” of the kingdom, he said.

Awadallah and Bin Zaid, who both have close ties to neighbouring Saudi Arabia, were found guilty of “incitement against the ruling system” and “acts that could threaten society and create sedition”. Awadallah, who holds Saudi nationality, had been on trial alongside Bin Zaid, a relative of King Abdullah, since June 21.

Images released by authorities showed the two men, wearing light blue prison uniforms, being escorted in handcuffs into the court, under heavy guard.

Their lawyers did not comment on the ruling apart from saying they would appeal. Bin Zaid was also found guilty on two drugs charges which would have carried prison terms, but the court did not extend his incarceration.

Regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia has fervently denied any involvement in the alleged plot. The unprecedented palace crisis erupted in April. Eighteen suspects were arrested after authorities announced they had foiled a bid to destabilise the pro-Western kingdom, but 16 were later released.

A former crown prince who was sidelined as heir to the throne by the King in 2004, Prince Hamzah accused Jordan’s rulers of corruption and ineptitude in a video message posted by the BBC on April 3.

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