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Jordan's King Abdullah makes first joint appearance with Prince Hamzah since rift

Prince Hamzah was put under house arrest after he was accused of instigating an attempted coup and destabilising the country
A handout picture released by the Jordanian Royal Palace on 11 April 2021 shows Jordan’s King Abdullah (C), Crown Prince Hussein (R) and Prince Hamzah (2nd-L) reading the Fatiha over the tomb of late King Hussein at the Raghadan Palace in Jordan (AFP)

Jordan's King Abdullah and half-brother Prince Hamzah, who has been accused of sedition, appeared in public together on Sunday for the first time since news broke of a "destabilisation" plot, to mark the country's 100th year of independence. 

State media showed Abdullah and Hamzah attending a ceremony in Amman, with other royal members, where they laid a wreath at at the memorial to the unknown soldier and tombs of royalty in the Raghdan palace in Amman.

Hamzah's first recent public appearance came after the United Nations on Friday criticised Jordan for the lack of transparency over the former crown prince's alleged "destabilisation" plot. 

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The United Nations Office on Human Rights said it remained unclear why Hamzah continued to be under de-facto house arrest despite having no charges levelled against him. 

"We are aware that there is an ongoing investigation but still it's not clear to us if following the mediation on April 5, Prince Hamzah is still under de facto house arrest or not," said Marta Hurtado, a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights office. 

"Aside from broad accusations, it appears that no charges have been yet brought and we are concerned at the lack of transparency around these arrests and detentions."

Abdullah, meanwhile, said on Wednesday that the country's "worst political crisis" had ended after Hamzah signed a pledge stating his loyalty to the country. The ruling monarch also said that Hamzah was being taken care of by the palace. 

An audio recording given to Middle East Eye on Friday revealed that Hamzah was spied on by Jordanian secret police while he was on holiday in Vienna in 2019. 

An alleged Jordanian spy told Hamzah that he was sent to spy on him by the ruling monarchy. 

"After he confessed, he started to kiss me on my head. 'Please sir, don't tell anyone. You'd destroy my future.' What is this? It's horrible," Hamzah says in the recording, which appears to have been a private message.

A leaked video of the interaction between Hamzah and the alleged spy shows the prince telling the security official: "You're coming to take photos of me, and now you tell me you don't want your picture taken?"

Unclear accusations

The emergence of the alleged surveillance came nearly a week after Jordan arrested 20 people, accusing them of plotting against the "security and stability" of the kingdom.

It is not clear what the nature of the alleged plot was or if Prince Hamzah was connected to it. Nor is it known what specific accusations the detainees are facing.

Last week's arrests targeted some senior former officials, including Hassan bin Zayed and Bassem Awadallah.

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Ayman Safadi, Jordan's deputy prime minister, said last week that military chief Yousef Huneiti had met with Hamzah, warning him to "cease all movements and activities that target Jordan's security and stability".

A leaked audio tape of the conversation between Huneiti and Hamzah purported to show the army chief asking the prince to stop meeting with tribal leaders and to limit his visits to royal family members and cease online posts.

Hamzah reacted angrily to the request and asked Huneiti to leave his house.

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that a Saudi delegation visiting Amman requested the release of Awadallah, who serves as an adviser to Riyadh's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Saudi officials wanted to take Awadallah back to the kingdom, the Post cited a Middle Eastern intelligence official as saying.

The US administration has been expressing support for King Abdullah. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Tony Blinken also held separate phone calls with the Jordanian monarch this week.