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High-Level Arrests Roil Jordan

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

In Jordan, a secretly recorded royal message, an alleged coup plot and a swath of arrests. There's a lot going on. In a video sent out from where he is being held, the king of Jordan's half-brother, Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, says he is under house arrest for meeting with people critical of the country's leadership. Jordan's deputy prime minister has come out recently saying that he was plotting to destabilize the country. That follows a series of high-level arrests of people the Jordanian authorities say have been plotting a coup. We're now joined by Rana Sweis, a journalist and author based in the Jordanian capital of Amman. Welcome to the program.

RANA SWEIS: Thank you, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So let's start with what the prince said in this video because this was the first that we had heard of his situation.

SWEIS: Yes, the prince, in a video that was sent to the BBC in Arabic and English - he said that all communication. The Internet was cut off and that his security was revoked - his security and his family's security, as well. He talked about corruption in the country and the failure of reform and the deterioration of institutions in Jordan, as well.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And now we have the deputy prime minister, Ayman Safadi - he held a press conference today outlining allegations against the prince, didn't he? What is their version of events?

SWEIS: I would say it was quite vague. They said that security services and the army and the police have been following the movements of Prince Hamzah and the two arrested, Sharif Hassan and Bassem Awadallah, who used the royal chief of court for King Adbullah, and others - 14 to 16 people were arrested. And they were following them for a while now in their attempt to shake, quote, unquote, "the security of the country." He said the investigation revealed calls with foreign parties for the right time to these people to take steps to shake, again, the security of Jordan.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But, again, there's a lot here we don't know yet. What has been the reaction of people there? I mean, we should remind our listeners this is a place without a free press or freedom of expression.

SWEIS: A lot of the reaction we are seeing is from social media. There is some skepticism about the foreign deputy minister Ayman Safadi's statements because of - we still don't know the relationship between Bassem Awadallah and Prince Hamzah, which seems kind of peculiar to Jordanians because, of course, Bassem Awadallah is - or used to be very close to King Abdullah. So we still do not have a lot of information. In the press conference, a lot of blame to, quote, unquote, "foreign parties" working against the country, the prince working with foreign parties, with foreign opposition. So a lot of blame went to that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And, you know, just briefly, Jordan is a very important country for the stability of the region. It borders Israel. It has a peace treaty with it. And this is getting a lot of attention, is it not?

SWEIS: It is, indeed. It's making, of course, headlines. And this is really a quite unprecedented movement and, let's say, event in Jordan. We have never seen these tensions inside the royal family revealed.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is Rana Sweis, a journalist and author based in Amman, Jordan. Thank you very much.

SWEIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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