AMMAN, Jordan — King Abdullah II of Jordan broke his silence Wednesday night over the unusually public rift with his half brother, Prince Hamzah, justifying the steps he had taken to curb his brother’s contact with the outside world, while asserting that the prince’s “sedition has been nipped in the bud.”
In an open letter addressed to the Jordanian people that was read by a newscaster on television, King Abdullah wrote that Prince Hamzah had committed “to put Jordan’s interest, Constitution, and laws above all considerations,” according to an official translation of the letter released by the royal palace.
The king added: “Hamzah today is with his family, in his palace, under my care.” The prince had claimed that he was under house arrest. He has not been seen in public since the rift became public this past weekend.
On Sunday the Jordanian government accused Prince Hamzah, a former crown prince, of having plotted to undermine the security of the country. Several aides and associates of the prince were arrested and the prince himself was ordered to refrain from making public comments or communicating with people outside the royal family.
The news shocked Jordanians and foreign allies alike. Jordan has historically been a pillar of stability in the turbulent Middle East, and the ruling family has rarely aired its disputes in public.
In a pointed display of support for the monarch, the head of the executive branch of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, visited King Abdullah on Wednesday. President Biden later phoned the king to offer “full solidarity with Jordan, under the leadership of His Majesty,” according to a statement published by a state-run news agency in Jordan.
King Abdullah’s letter constitutes the first time that the monarch himself has commented on the rift.
Prince Hamzah had previously distributed two videos about the situation, denying any involvement in a conspiracy, but excoriating the Jordanian government and saying he had been put under house arrest.
Squeezed between Syria, Iraq, Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan is viewed by western powers like the United States as a key ally in international military efforts to rein in extremist groups like the Islamic State. And with a sizable population of Palestinian origin, Jordan is considered a key player in any future Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
In his statement on Wednesday the king spoke of his personal discomfort at his disagreement with Prince Hamzah.
“The challenge over the past few days was not the most difficult or dangerous to the stability of our nation,” he wrote, “but to me, it was the most painful.”
He added: “Sedition came from within and without our one house, and nothing compares to my shock, pain, and anger as a brother and as the head of the Hashemite family, and as a leader of this proud people.”
Though painful to do so, the king said he had felt forced to take action. “Nothing, and no one comes before Jordan’s security and stability,” he wrote, “and it was imperative to take the necessary measures to honor that responsibility.”
The king’s letter followed a separate statement released on Monday by the royal court, bearing Prince Hamzah’s signature, in which the prince was quoted as reaffirming his loyalty to his half brother. But the prince’s exact whereabouts have been a mystery since Saturday. Aside from the two videos, he has not made any direct comments to the public.
The prince’s staff and associates remain in jail pending an investigation into their activities, a fact that the king alluded to in his letter on Wednesday.
“As for the other aspects,” he wrote, “they are under investigation, in accordance with the law.” He promised that the investigation would be handled “in a manner that guarantees justice and transparency.”
Prince Hamzah’s rift with the king is partly a result of the prince’s repeated criticism of the way that the country is governed, in particular of its lack of transparency. Freedom House, an independent American watchdog that monitors rights abuses across the world, recently said that Jordan was no longer a free society, having previously classified it as “partly free.”
Hamzah was removed as crown prince by the king in 2004, and initially kept quiet about his frustration at the demotion. But in recent years, he has attempted to build a profile as a standard-bearer for public discontent, railing on social media about high-level graft.
He also met regularly with tribal leaders, a move that some considered as an attempt to undermine the king. Though tribal influence has waned in recent decades, the Jordanian monarchy’s legitimacy has historically been partly rooted in the support it received from Jordanian clans.