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Jordan’s king, in scathing public letter, denounces his half brother

From left: Queen Rania of Jordan, King Abdullah II, Princess Noor bint Aasem bin Nayef and Hamzah bin Hussein, then crown prince, are seen in 2003. (Yussef Allan/Royal Palace/AFP/Getty Images)
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BEIRUT — King Abdullah II of Jordan issued a royal decree Thursday restricting the communications and movements of his half brother Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, whom Jordanian authorities accused last year of taking part in a coup attempt against the king.

In a lengthy, scathing letter explaining the decree to the Jordanian public, the king excoriated his half brother, calling him “arrogant,” “erratic” and seditious. Hamzah, the monarch wrote, had “exhausted all opportunities to restore himself on the right path” and clung to delusion, believing himself to be the sole guardian of the family’s legacy.

The letter — an extraordinary public airing of a family conflict — was the latest twist in a royal drama that began more than a year ago, when Hamzah was placed under house arrest and accused of fomenting a coup along with Bassem Awadallah, a former top aide to the king, and Sharif Hasan, a little-known member of the royal family. The decree issued Thursday appeared to formalize the restrictions placed on Hamzah’s movements.

The allegations were followed by sweeping arrests that targeted nearly 20 high-ranking Jordanian officials. In July, a Jordanian court found Awadallah and Hasan guilty of sedition and incitement for their involvement in the “discord scheme.”

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The court did not address the role of Hamzah, whose case would be resolved within the family, the king said.

Then, last month, on the anniversary of the arrests, Hamzah posted a letter on Twitter announcing he was relinquishing his title — a move that apparently offended the king. In his letter Thursday, Abdullah rejected Hamzah’s action, saying only the king had the authority to grant and strip titles, according to the Jordanian constitution. Abdullah added that his half brother, after renouncing his title, sent him a private letter “asking to maintain the financial and logistical privileges.”

Behind the ferocity and public nature of Abdullah’s allegations was the suggestion that Hamzah was not simply a traitor: Rather, as the son of King Hussein and Queen Noor, he was a prominent royal whose accusations, including that the king was enriching himself as Jordanians suffered, had found an audience. Economic hardship, a bloated public sector and rising unemployment have posed growing challenges to Abdullah and served as rallying points for critics, including some who have called for the king to be replaced by Hamzah.

In a video Hamzah posted online during his detention, he said that the well-being of ordinary Jordanians “has been put second by a ruling system [that] has decided that its personal interests, that its financial interests, that its corruption is more important than the lives and dignity and futures of the more than 10 million people that live here.”

The letter, though, accused Hamzah of grave crimes. Abdullah said Hamzah knew that Awadallah and Hasan “had approached two foreign embassies to ask about the possibility of their countries supporting what he had described as regime change.”

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“It has become evident that the Prince is living in the fantasy created by those around him that he alone has inherited this great legacy, despite his young age and limited experience,” the king wrote.

“We do not have the luxury of time to deal with Hamzah’s erratic behavior and aspirations,” he continued, adding that the country faces many challenges that need to be addressed.

After the king’s letter was published, Queen Noor, Hamzah’s mother, posted a thinly veiled critique on Twitter. “Some truly bizarre and stranger than fiction stuff circulating right now,” she wrote.