Former Jordanian royal court chief pleads not guilty to charges of trying to destabilise monarchy

A police vehicle is parked outside the military court where the trial of former royal court chief Bassem Awadallah and a minor royal, Sherif Hassan Zaid, is set to take place in Amman, Jordan.

A former Jordanian royal court chief and a low-ranking member of the royal family pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of agitating to destabilise the monarchy, one of their lawyers said.

Prosecutors had referred to a military court the case of Bassem Awadallah, an ex-royal court chief and finance minister who played a big role in the drive to liberalise Jordan’s economy, and Sherif Hassan Zaid, a distant relative of King Abdullah.

During the first session of the trial on Monday, both pleaded not guilty, according to Mohamed Afif, Awadallah’s lawyer.

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The pair were arrested in early April when former heir to the throne, Prince Hamza, was placed under house arrest over allegations that he had liaised with foreign parties over a plot to destabilise Jordan, a close U.S. ally in the Middle East.

Proceedings against Prince Hamza, who along with Awadallah had been under investigation for some time, were later dropped after he pledged allegiance to King Abdullah.

Charges against Awadallah and Zaid include agitating to undermine the kingdom’s political system and acts that threaten public security and sowing sedition. Both carry sentences up to 30 years in prison.

Monday’s trial was closed to the media.

Awadallah is among the closest economic advisers to Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a matter that complicated the judicial investigations, according to officials familiar with the affair.

Amman turned down Riyadh’s request to hand him over, they added, without elaborating.

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