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Nation & World

Jordan's Government Foils Plot To Destabilize The Country

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Jordan's former crown prince says he is under house arrest. Prince Hamzah bin Hussein and 20 other people are accused of a plot to threaten the nation's security and stability. Through his lawyer, he has released a statement to the BBC.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HAMZAH BIN HUSSEIN: I am not the person responsible for the breakdown in governance, for the corruption and for the incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last 15 to 20 years and has been getting worse by the year.

INSKEEP: What is really happening inside an important U.S. ally? The Wall Street Journal's Jared Malsin is covering this story, and he's on the line. Welcome to the program.

JARED MALSIN: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: I just want to remind people this is a monarchy, of course. What kind of monarchy is it in Jordan?

MALSIN: That's right. Jordan is a constitutional monarchy, meaning they have a king and a royal family and also an elected Parliament. But this is a system, obviously, where the king and royal family have most of the power.

INSKEEP: And strong security services to back up that power inside the country.

MALSIN: That's right. They also have a strong security state, which can be repressive, but it also makes Jordan sort of a cornerstone of the U.S. security architecture in the Middle East. There's U.S. military bases in Jordan, and the U.S. has poured a lot of money into the country in order to build up its security forces. So...

INSKEEP: Very stable, has been relatively friendly with Israel - that sort of thing. So what sort of threat do the officials in the royal family say they faced?

MALSIN: So the government is describing what they are saying is some kind of plot to destabilize the country. They haven't used the word coup attempt, but that's the rumor essentially, is that this man, Prince Hamzah, the king's younger half-brother, along with other people, organized some sort of plot, potentially, to replace the king. But the government hasn't come forward with a lot of details about what was involved in this plot or who was involved; just that these men were communicating with one another. They also said that the former crown prince was planning to leave the country and that he was in touch with these unspecified opposition parties outside of his country.

INSKEEP: We mentioned something, like, 20 people under arrest. The crown prince, former crown prince, says he's under house arrest. Were there raids across Amman? Did this all happen very suddenly?

MALSIN: That's right. There were. There was a series of security raids, including one on Prince Hamzah's home, where a whole convoy of security vehicles rolled up. There were other raids in which we're told that masked security officers burst into people's homes and offices and arrested these people. So it appears at this time that this was some sort of a clamp-down on these alleged conspirators.

INSKEEP: Well, Hamzah says he was arrested just for being critical of the government. Was he - very briefly, was he, in fact, critical of the government prior to being arrested?

MALSIN: He was. He was really a conduit for a lot of the popular frustration in Jordan about the state of the economy. In the video that you just played, he talked about corruption and nepotism. So he's really giving voice to a lot of the concerns that you hear from ordinary Jordanians about how their country is being run and how their economy is turning out.

INSKEEP: Mr. Malsin, thanks for the update. Really appreciate it.

MALSIN: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Jared Malsin of The Wall Street Journal is in Istanbul, and he is reporting today on the arrests of alleged conspirators in Jordan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.