Jordan king to address nation on palace turmoil

Amman, Jordan: King Abdullah is to break his silence Wednesday for the first time since news broke of an alleged plot involving his half-brother Prince Hamzah, state television said.

One day after an official news blackout on the affair, the king is expected to issue a statement to the nation to address the country's worst political crisis in decades.

"His Majesty King Abdullah will deliver a message to Jordanians on Wednesday... after Prince Hamzah signed a letter affirming his loyalty to the king and the crown prince," the state channel said.

The government had 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.

The king's speech follows orders issued Tuesday by Amman prosecutor Hassan al-Abdallat, who banned the publication of any information about the alleged plot in order to keep the security services' investigation secret.

Jordan's media was told to wait for official statements before publishing anything about those arrested.

Mustafa Al-Riyalat, editor-in-chief of pro-government newspaper Addustour, said Jordanians "all feel reassured because it's as if nothing happened."

Relief

Hamzah had made extensive use of traditional and social media to lash out against his situation, accusing Jordan's rulers of corruption and ineptitude in a video message published by the BBC on Saturday.

But on Monday, following mediation by an uncle, he pledged loyalty to the king.

On Wednesday, news of Hamzah, accused of plotting against the kingdom's "security and stability", disappeared from the local press.

The front pages were dominated by the visit of Saudi Foreign Minister Faysal Bin Farhan with a message from King Salman and developments in the coronavirus outbreak ravaging the country.

Gone were reports of a "wicked plot" aimed at overthrowing King Abdullah II, and in the streets, Jordanians voiced relief.

"When the crisis erupted on Saturday, there was no one in the streets. People were afraid," said Shady, 41, who owns a clothing store in the capital Amman.

"But thank God, it was resolved within the royal palace."

Hamzah was appointed crown prince in 1999 in line with his father's wishes, but Abdullah stripped him of the title in 2004 and named his eldest son in Hamzah's place.

The monarchy ruling Jordan -- a country long regarded as a pro-Western anchor of stability in a turbulent region -- declared it was settling the matter "within the framework of the Hashemite family".

But Ahmed Awad, of the Phenix Center for Economics and Informatics Studies, warned that the crisis was not yet over.

"There was a solution within the royal family, but not a solution to the political crisis," he said.

"The real political crisis... will continue until there are more democratic reforms."

'Like a switch'

The crisis has laid bare divisions in a country usually seen as a bulwark of stability in the Middle East.

Jordan borders Israel and the occupied West Bank, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. It hosts US troops and is home to millions of exiled Palestinians and more than half a million Syrian refugees.

For normal Jordanians, information on the leaders of their nation has faded from view.

"We're ordinary people concerned about our livelihoods, and we have no idea whether what we see in the media or read in the newspapers is correct," said Youssef, a 42-year-old worker at a transport company, who asked not to give his full name.

"An order is given to the newspapers to publish something and they publish it. Then comes a decision not to publish -- and we no longer find anything in the press."

Press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the "gag order" on reporting about the tensions.

But many Jordanians AFP spoke to said they were relieved.

On social media, some Jordanians posted photos of Hamzah, congratulating him for what he had done, while others paid tribute to King Abdullah II and his son, the Crown Prince.

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