Jordan releases 16 accused in 'sedition' plot

Amman (AFP) –


Jordan released Thursday 16 people detained for "sedition" at the request of King Abdullah II, the state prosecutor said, weeks after an alleged plot to destabilise the country was foiled.

But two key suspects, former royal court chief Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, an ex-special envoy to Saudi Arabia, were kept in detention, Brigadier General Hazem al-Majali said.

He said the decision to release the 16 "at this time in the investigation" was taken at the request of the king, without specifying if this was a final pardon or a temporary release.

The 16, alongside Awadallah and Bin Zaid, were being investigated in the case "to destabilise security and stability in Jordan".

Earlier Abdullah, in a statement released by the royal court, said he had asked authorities to release "brothers" who were "misled, wronged, dragged behind this sedition" so they could be with family as soon as possible during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The king made the request after lobbying by a number of key figures from across Jordan who asked him to show tolerance, state television Al-Mamlaka and official Petra news agency reported.

But Awadallah and Bin Zaid "have not been released because of their role and the level of incitement which is different than those of the other (16) accused who were set free," Majali said.

Eighteen suspects were arrested after authorities on April 3 announced they had foiled a bid to destabilise the kingdom.

Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi called the bid a "wicked plan".

The case was handed over to the State Security Court -- which has both military and civilian judges and deals with high treason, espionage, drug trafficking, counterfeiting money and terrorism.

The court began its investigations on April 14, after Amman prosecutor Hassan Abdallah issued a gag order banning the publication of any information pertaining to the case.

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

- 'Painful' -

When news of the alleged plot broke out, Abdullah's half-brother Prince Hamzah was suspected of involvement.

The government accused the former crown prince, who was sidelined as heir to the throne in 2014, of involvement in a conspiracy to "destabilise the kingdom's security".

News of the alleged plot broke earlier this month, and at the time Abdullah's half-brother Prince Hamzah was suspected of involvement.

But authorities said later he would not stand trial, as his case had been resolved within the royal family.

It came after the king broke several days of silence to tell the nation the worst political crisis in decades was over and the pair later appeared together in public.

After claiming he was put under house arrest on April 3, Hamzah had made extensive use of traditional and social media to lash out against his situation.

He accused Jordan's rulers of corruption and ineptitude in a video message published by the BBC that same day.

But later on Abdullah said Hamzah had offered his support and loyalty for the monarchy and was now under his "protection".

In the statement released Thursday by the royal court, Abdullah said "what took place was painful".

"The sedition, as I have said has been stopped, but if it had not been stopped at the onset, it could have taken the country in a difficult direction, God forbid," he said.