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Jordan detains royal family member and others in security clampdown

King Abdullah's half-brother told to halt actions affecting country's stability

King of Jordan Abdullah II addresses the European Parliament in January 2020.   © Reuters

AMMAN (Reuters) -- Jordanian King Abdullah's half-brother and former Crown Prince Hamza bin Hussein was told to halt actions used to target the country's "security and stability", the military said on Saturday.

In a statement published on the state news agency, it said this was part of a broader, ongoing security investigation in which a former minister, a member of the royal family and unnamed others were detained.

"What has been published about allegations about the arrest of his highness Prince Hamza is not true but he was told to stop activities that are being exploited to target Jordan's security and stability," said Jordanian army chief Yusef Huneity.

Two people familiar with the situation told Reuters security forces had arrived at Prince Hamza's house and begun an investigation.

They said he had not been arrested. An official source also told the state news agency he had not been arrested. People familiar with the affair said it could have been related to a plot to destabilise the country, a key ally of the United States.

The Washington Post said Jordanian authorities detained Hamza and arrested nearly 20 other people after what officials called a "threat to the country's stability".

King Abdullah dismissed Hamza as heir to the throne in 2004 in a move that consolidated his power. The state news agency said U.S.-educated Bassem Awadallah, a long-time confidant of the king who later became minister of finance and also adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, and Sharif Hassan Ben Zaid, a member of the royal family, were detained along with other unnamed figures. It gave no details.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Arrests of top officials and royal family members are rare in Jordan, seen as one of the Arab world's most stable countries.

Prince Hamza, who had been groomed by his mother Queen Noor to succeed his late father King Hussein, has since he was sacked as crown prince in 2004 been pushed into the political wilderness.

He has been trying to win popularity with the country's prominent tribes and some opposition figures have rallied around him, a move that has been viewed with displeasure by King Abdullah, officials familiar with the situation said.

Abdullah succeeded his father, King Hussein, who ruled Jordan for nearly five decades.

The Jordanian Hashemite dynasty's tradition under the 1952 constitution gives the succession to the eldest son but the monarch retains the option of naming a brother.

King Abdullah has succeeded in bringing political stability to the country and gaining stature as a prominent Arab leader whose message of moderation has found an echo, especially in Western forums.

Awadallah, who was a driving force behind economic reforms before he resigned as chief of the royal court in 2008, has long faced stiff resistance from an old guard and an entrenched bureaucracy that flourished for years on government perks.

Jordan's powerful intelligence agency, with a pervasive influence in public life, has played a bigger public role since the introduction of emergency laws at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic last year, which civic groups say violate civil and political rights.

Jordanian riot police last month broke up protests in Amman and other cities called to mark the 10th anniversary of Arab Spring pro-democracy demonstrations, and authorities detained dozens of activists, witnesses said.

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