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EXCLUSIVE: Jordan's Prince Hamzah says he was spied on during 2019 trip

In audio recording sent to Middle East Eye, Jordanian royal says he confronted an alleged spy sent by Amman while on vacation in Vienna
King Abdullah (R) and his brother, then-Crown Prince Hamzah at the ninth Pan Arab Games in Jordan, 20 August 1999
King Abdullah (R) and his half-brother, then-Crown Prince Hamzah, at the ninth Pan Arab Games in Jordan, 20 August 1999 (AFP)

Prince Hamzah, the senior Jordanian royal who has been accused of fueling popular discontent in the country, was followed by a security agent from the kingdom during a vacation in Vienna in 2019, according to an audio message sent to Middle East Eye.

Hamzah, a half-brother to King Abdullah who was the kingdom's crown prince before being replaced in 2004, says in the audio that his security guards were alerted by his hotel in the Austrian capital to the presence of the supposed spy.

When one of his guards confronted the alleged Jordanian security official, Hamzah added, the purported spy confirmed that he was there to track the prince, but tried to bribe the guard into silence.

Hamzah said the spy said he was sent by "the master", an apparent reference to King Abdullah.

The former crown prince said he was furious and went to talk to the spy himself. 

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"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?"

The emergence of the alleged monitoring comes 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.

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

Hamzah was reported to be put under house arrest as part of the crackdown.

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".

'Committed to the family'

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.

After initially striking a defiant tone and vying not to obey the orders, Hamzah pledged allegiance to his brother on Monday, according to the royal court.

King Abdullah said on Wednesday that the crisis sparked by the supposed sedition involving Hamzah was over.

"Prince Hamzah has committed to the family to follow the path of our forefathers and to be loyal to their message and to put the interests of Jordan and its constitution and laws above all other agendas," King Abdullah said on Wednesday. "Hamzah is today in his palace with his family in my care."

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It is not clear whether the message about the Vienna incident was sent before or after the Jordanian king claimed that issues with Hamzah were resolved. MEE obtained the recording late on Friday.

The UN Human Rights Office has voiced concerns about the situation in Jordan.

"We'd like to state that 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 detention," spokeswoman Marta Hurtado said during a news briefing in Geneva on Friday.

It is not known what specific accusations the detainees are facing.

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.