Two suspects in Jordanian coup attempt plead not guilty

Former top adviser to Jordan’s King Abdullah II and a relative of the monarch plead not guilty to sedition and incitement charges.

Elad Benari ,

Jordan's Crown Prince Hamzah
Jordan's Crown Prince Hamzah
REUTERS/Ali Jarekji

A former top adviser to Jordan’s King Abdullah II and a relative of the monarch on Monday pleaded not guilty to sedition and incitement charges, The Associated Press reported.

The defendants are Bassem Awadallah, the former royal court chief, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a distant cousin of the king. They are accused of conspiring with Prince Hamzah, a half-brother of the king, to foment unrest against the monarch while soliciting foreign help.

The government has accused Hamzah -- a former crown prince who was sidelined as heir to the throne in 2004 -- of involvement in a conspiracy to "destabilize the kingdom's security" and arrested at least 16 people.

Hamzah has emerged as a vocal critic, accusing Jordan's leadership of corruption, nepotism and authoritarian rule.

In a video he sent to the BBC in April, he lashed out at "incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last 15 to 20 years and has been getting worse".

"No-one is able to speak or express opinion on anything without being bullied, arrested, harassed and threatened," he charged.

Following the attempted coup against King Abdullah II, roads to Hamzah’s palace were blocked with security services patrolling entrances to the capital city of Amman.

He subsequently signed a letter pledging his loyalty to the king following mediation by an uncle.

The highly anticipated trial was held under a heavy cloak of secrecy, according to AP. The defendants were sneaked into the state security court, apparently in SUVs with blacked-out windows, as dozens of journalists waited for hours near the main gate for any word about the proceedings inside.

Hamzah has not been charged. The king has said the royal family is dealing with him privately. Defense attorneys have said they plan to call Hamzah to the stand.

The indictment alleges that Hamzah and the two defendants were working on social media messages the prince was to post, with the aim of “inciting some groups in society against the ruling system and state agencies.”

Awadallah and bin Zaid are the most senior establishment figures to appear before the security court, which typically goes after drug offenders or suspected militants.