Jordanian ex-royal court chief loses appeal against verdict

Jordan's highest appeal court on Thursday upheld a guilty verdict against a former confidant of King Abdullah and a minor royal who were sentenced to 15 years in jail on charges of attempting to destabilise the monarchy. The cessation court said it confirmed evidence backing the sentence passed last July by a state security court against former royal court chief Bassem Awadallah, who played a big role in the drive to liberalise Jordan's economy, and Sherif Hassan Zaid, a distant relative of King Abdullah.


Reuters | Updated: 10-09-2021 02:00 IST | Created: 10-09-2021 02:00 IST
Jordanian ex-royal court chief loses appeal against verdict

Jordan's highest appeal court on Thursday upheld a guilty verdict against a former confidant of King Abdullah and a minor royal who were sentenced to 15 years in jail on charges of attempting to destabilise the monarchy.

The cessation court said it confirmed evidence backing the sentence passed last July by a state security court against former royal court chief Bassem Awadallah, who played a big role in the drive to liberalise Jordan's economy, and Sherif Hassan Zaid, a distant relative of King Abdullah. "The court finds the acts committed were tangible activities that found their expression in ways meant to encourage and prod against the political system in Jordan," the court said in its statement quashing their appeal request.

The two 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. The affair shocked Jordan because it exposed rifts within the ruling Hashemite family that has been a beacon of stability in a volatile region in recent years.

Awadallah and Sherif Zaid were accused of pushing Hamza as an alternative to the king, committing acts that threatened public security and sowing sedition. The pair pleaded not guilty and said they had nothing to do with the case in a secret trial where the man at the centre of the case, Hamza, was not in the dock.

U.S. lawyer Michael Sullivan, representing Awadallah, who also holds U.S. citizenship, alleged he was tortured and his confessions were extracted under duress and denied during a secret trial the opportunity to call witnesses. In a statement after the verdict, Sullivan said the decision by the cessation court "affirmed the secret military tribunal’s unjust and outrageous conviction and sentence. This is a dark day for justice."

"This decision to uphold the original, predetermined verdict and outrageous sentence by a secret court in Jordan violates every international standard for justice and human rights and makes a mockery of the rule of law," Sullivan said. The American lawyer's request to meet Awadallah was refused by Jordanian prosecutors adding that they were aware the U.S. embassy had filed a protest with the authorities, Sullivan said.

He said Washington "should continue its investigation into the abuse of an American citizen." Jordan's public prosecutions office has said Awadallah was at no point threatened or tortured, nor did he make his testimony under coercion and insists the trial process is fair.

Human rights activists have denounced the trial of civilians in the state security court, a special court they say is not independent of the judiciary and lacks standards of a fair trial. Awadallah, a former finance minister, is among the closest economic advisers to Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which complicated the case, according to officials familiar with the affair.

King Abdullah did not deny a possible Saudi role in the alleged plot in a CNN interview in July but said the authorities handled it as domestic matter.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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