A Jordanian court Monday found both a relative of King Abdullah II and his former top confidant guilty of sedition and incitement against the crown, concluding that both men engaged in a conspiracy that exposed a shocking level of intrigue and estrangement inside the royal household.
The two men were accused of forging a “criminal project” involving Prince Hamzah, the king’s half-brother and the former heir to the throne, to spread chaos against the monarch, according to a televised statement from the military judge presiding over the closed-door trial.
Bassem Awadallah, the former confidant, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a cousin of the king, each received a sentence of 15 years with hard labor. Prince Hamzah was not arrested, and Abdullah has said the dispute with him would be resolved within the royal family.
Jordanians were astonished in April when Hamzah and some of his associates were alleged to have plotted a coup against Abdullah, who ascended the throne in 1999. The alleged conspiracy deeply rattled the Hashemite kingdom, one of the U.S.’ most important allies in the Middle East.
In his remarks, the judge, Lt. Col. Muwafaq Masaeed, said that Awadallah and bin Zaid had been friends since 2001 and shared an animosity toward the current system of rule in Jordan and toward the king himself, and that they disagreed with the “general policy of the Jordanian state” in its handling of internal and external affairs.
Since June, the courtroom drama — dubbed Jordan’s trial of the century — has kept residents in thrall, despite the fact that its six sessions unfolded mostly in secret.
Lawyers for Awadallah, who is a U.S. citizen, said the guilty verdict was “a foregone conclusion” and alleged that authorities had tortured and threatened him with additional harm if he did not confess to the alleged crimes. They intend to appeal the verdict.
Next week, King Abdullah is set to become the first Arab leader to meet President Biden when he visits the White House.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.