Jordan prince remains defiant in new audio recording

BEIRUT — Jordan’s Prince Hamzah says he has been threatened by the country’s security agencies but does not plan to follow their “unacceptable” orders that he remain confined at home and cut off from public communication, according to a new voice recording released Monday.

The recording, which circulated online, indicates that tensions are running high between Jordan’s King Abdullah II and his half-brother Hamzah, a former crown prince. The United States quickly sided with Abdullah, a close Western ally in a volatile region.

Jordanian authorities said on Sunday they had foiled a “malicious plot” by Hamzah to destabilize the kingdom with foreign support. Hamzah has denied being part of any plot and says he is being targeted for speaking out against corruption and poor governance.

“The army chief of staff came to me and issued threats in the name of heads of security agencies,” Hamzah says in the recording. “I recorded his comments and distributed them to my acquaintances abroad as well as my family in case something happens.”

“I don’t want to escalate now, but of course I will not abide when he tells me ‘you are not allowed to go out, tweet or connect with people and you are only allowed to see family members,’” he said. “When an army chief of staff says that, this is something that I think is unacceptable.”

An individual close to the prince confirmed the authenticity of the recording, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns. The individual said the recording is a few days old and was made after the army chief threatened the prince.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Sunday that the prince had recorded conversations and passed them to foreign sources.

Safadi did not provide specifics on the alleged plot or say what other countries were purported to have been involved. But he said that some 14 to 16 associates of Hamzah had been arrested, in addition to Bassem Awadallah, a former Cabinet minister and one-time head of the royal court, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family.

The U.S. and Arab governments’ quick siding with Abdullah reflected the country’s strategic importance. Domestically, Prince Hamzah’s unprecedented criticism of the ruling class — without naming the king — could lend support to growing complaints about poor governance and human rights abuses in Jordan.

Abdullah and Hamzah are both sons of the late King Hussein, who remains a beloved figure two decades after his death. Upon ascending to the throne in 1999, Abdullah named Hamzah as crown prince, only to revoke the title five years later.

While the two are said to have generally good relations, Hamzah has at times spoken out against government policies, and more recently had forged ties with powerful tribal leaders in a move seen as a threat to the king.

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Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb in Beirut and Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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