Wednesday, May 25

Jordanian Court Jails Two Former Officials for 15 Years for Alleged Royal Plot | Jordan

A Jordanian state security court sentenced two former officials to 15 years in prison for an alleged plot to foment unrest in the western ally Middle Eastern kingdom.

Bassem Awadallah, who has American citizenship and was once one of King Abdullah II’s top aides; and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family, were found guilty on charges of sedition and incitement. Each was sentenced to 15 years in jail.

It is alleged that they conspired with Prince Hamzah, the king’s half-brother, and sought foreign help. The verdict was announced Monday, after a closed-door trial that consisted of just six hearings.

The royal family says it settled the dispute with Hamzah, whose exact status is unknown, but he was never formally charged. Awadallah’s US attorney says his client alleged he was tortured while in detention in Jordan and fears for his life.

The three Jordanians were accused of fomenting riots against the monarch while requesting foreign aid. Hamzah denied the allegations in video statements released in April after being placed under house arrest, saying he was being silenced for speaking out against corruption and poor governance by the ruling system.

Both defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges of sedition and incitement.

Abdullah is expected to be 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 ally of the United States in the Middle East and is seen as a key partner in eventually reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

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Michael Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor hired by the US-based Awadallah family, told the Associated Press that the closed-door trial had been “completely unfair.”

Awadallah said he was beaten, subjected to electric shocks and threatened with future ill-treatment “if he did not confess,” Sullivan said.

The court denied requests by Jordanian defense attorneys to call witnesses and prosecutors only shared alleged transcripts, but not audio, of the surveillance of the alleged conspirators.

The state security court prosecutors denied that the trial was unfair, saying that Awadallah was given due process in accordance with Jordanian law and that he was not mistreated in any way. He said Awadallah only raised the torture allegations as the verdict approached.

Before the verdict was announced, Sullivan, a former United States Attorney for Massachusetts and former acting director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said that based on the way the trial, a guilty verdict seemed to have been lost. conclusion. He said any conviction would be appealed.

Awadallah, who also has Jordanian and Saudi citizenship, served as head of the royal court and government minister in Jordan. He has extensive business interests in the Gulf and has advised Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on attracting foreign investment. The Awadallah family urged the Biden government to demand his release.

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