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Awadallah, Hassan Bin Zeid handed 15-year jail terms for sedition

Two were also convicted of plotting incitement acts

By Rana Husseini - Jul 12,2021 - Last updated at Jul 12,2021

Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hassan Bin Zeid are brought to the State Security Court in Amman on Monday (JT photos)

AMMAN — The State Security Court (SSC) on Monday sentenced Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hassan Bin Zeid each to 15 years in prison after declaring them guilty of sedition.

The two defendants, who are standing trial at the SSC, were also convicted of plotting incitement acts against the regime.

Sharif Hassan was also sentenced to one year in prison for possessing illegal narcotics (hashish).

The SSC said in its ruling that the defendants sought to destabilise the security and safety of the country.

They pleaded not guilty to the charges during their opening trial on June 22.

The trial was held in closed sessions and only the defendants’ lawyers were allowed to attend.

Defence lawyer and former SSC president Mohammad Afif told reporters that he plans to appeal the verdict.

Meanwhile, Sharif Hassan’s lawyer Ala Khasawneh also said following the issuance of the sentence he planned to appeal the verdict at a higher court within the next 30 days.

The SSC prosecutor rested its case last week asking the SSC to inflict the highest punishment against the two defendants.

The charge sheet said the two defendants were friends for a long time because of the nature of their work and connection to HRH Prince Hamzeh.

For a while, the charge sheet added, Prince Hamzeh was aiming to become the ruler of Jordan, which is against the Constitution and “took advantage of certain incidents in Jordan, including the COVID-19 pandemic, to create chaos and frustration in Jordan”.

“The prince started attacking His Majesty the King and criticising him and was encouraged by Sharif Hassan who carried the same convictions and exerted all his efforts to support the idea of Prince Hamzeh becoming the ruler of Jordan,” according to the charge sheet.

Prince Hamzeh and Sharif Hassan Bin Zeid met on a regular basis to discuss means of achieving their goals and the latter suggested the name of Awadallah to help them with the needed international support to utilise their plot, the charge sheet said.

“They knew that Awadallah was experienced and had strong influence abroad, which could help in securing Prince Hamzeh becoming the ruler,” the charge sheet added.

The prince and Sharif Hassan Bin Zeid also knew that Awadallah was experienced enough in drafting and editing the messages that they planned to use via Prince Hamzeh’s account to send provocative messages to the Jordanian people, the charge sheet said.

When they invited Awadallah to a meeting, the latter agreed to “be part of the plot and also criticised King Abdullah’s approach towards national matters”, the charge sheet continued.

The defendants encouraged Prince Hamzeh to move to a next level by publicly crticising King Abdullah and the government to establish a popular base, while spreading desperation and sedition among the public, the charge sheet said.

At the same time, the charge sheet maintained, Awadallah pushed Prince Hamzeh “to crticise and weaken the strong position of the King towards the Palestinian cause, the issue of Jerusalem and the Hashemite Custodianship of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites”, the charge sheet stated.

In March 2021, Prince Hamzeh took advantage of the oxygen outage at the New Salt Public Hospital that claimed the lives of eight patients to send hidden messages against the regime that was aimed to cause unrest, the charge sheet said.

“The prince recorded a five-minute video whereby he held King Abdullah accountable for what happened in the hospital and his ultimate aim was to provoke the public to revolt against the regime and clash with the security forces,” the charge sheet maintained.

On March 13, the SSC prosecution office received a tip-off that the two defendants were conducting suspicious activities that would undermine the safety and security of the country and they were put under surveillance for one month, the charge sheet said.

The SSC prosecution office intercepted several coded messages between the two defendants and Prince Hamzeh that were mainly encouraging him to “go ahead with the plans and used the letter ‘H’ in one of the messages as a sign to start the provocative movements”, the charge sheet added.

In other messages, Sharif Hassan Bin Zeid urged the prince to stay strong by telling him “you should ride the wave of what is going on now in the country, you should become the man of all circumstances and you represent the power and honour. We are behind you man and go for it when the time is right,” the charge sheet said.

On April 3, the charge sheet continued, the defendants were arrested and their plans that would have caused “grave threat to the national security and stability of the country and the system were thwarted”.

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