Jordan sentences two sedition plotters to 15 years hard labor

Jordan sentences two sedition plotters to 15 years hard labor
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Bassem Awadallah. (Raed Omari)
Jordan sentences two sedition plotters to 15 years hard labor
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Bassem Awadallah. (Raed Omari)
Jordan sentences two sedition plotters to 15 years hard labor
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Sharif Hassan bin Zaid. (Raed Omari)
Jordan sentences two sedition plotters to 15 years hard labor
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Sharif Hassan bin Zaid. (Raed Omari)
Jordan sentences two sedition plotters to 15 years hard labor
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Sharif Hassan bin Zaid. (Raed Omari)
Jordan sentences two sedition plotters to 15 years hard labor
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Bassem Awadallah. (Raed Omari)
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Updated 12 July 2021

Jordan sentences two sedition plotters to 15 years hard labor

Jordan sentences two sedition plotters to 15 years hard labor
  • Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid plotted to undermine the country’s security and stability

AMMAN: Jordan’s military State Security Court (SSC) on Monday sentenced Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid to 15 years of hard labor each for their involvement in a high-profile sedition case.

Awadallah, a former chief of the Jordanian Royal Court, and Bin Zaid, a distant member of the royal family, stood trial on charges of plotting to undermine the government and the country’s security and stability.

The SSC allowed reporters to attend part of the hearing on Monday but from outside the courtroom via a TV screen.

Reading the charge sheet, the court president said that the case had to do with the Jordanian ruling system, the legitimacy of which “stemmed from the constitution which stipulates that the system of government is parliamentary with a hereditary monarchy.”

The judge added that Awadallah held several government posts in Jordan that enabled him to build a network of connections inside and outside the country. Bin Zaid, he said, was a Jordanian national who worked in the private sector.

The court was told that the two men had been friends since 2001 and had hostile attitudes toward the regime, the king, the legitimacy of the monarch’s rule, and the Jordanian state’s constants.

The military judge also said the suspects plotted to ignite chaos and sedition in the society, exploiting certain internal and external incidents.

“What happened was a criminal plotting from the suspects in fulfillment of their hidden desires and was targeting the existing regime. The court had clear and convincing evidence of the crime.”

Awadallah’s lawyer Mohammed Afif, a former SCC president, said he would challenge the verdict at the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court).

Awadallah and Bin Zaid were arrested on April 3 along with 15 other people suspected of involvement in the case, which also involved Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, a half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

At the time, Jordanian authorities said that Awadallah, Bin Zaid, and Prince Hamzah were attempting to destabilize the country in collaboration with “foreign entities.”

Upon directives from King Abdullah, Prince Hamzah’s case was settled within the Hashemite family.

The Jordanian Royal Court published a letter signed by Prince Hamzah in which he vowed allegiance to the monarch and confirmed that he would act “always for His Majesty and his crown prince to help and support.”

The prince, 41, has been seen only once since April accompanying the king during the palace’s Jordanian independence celebrations on May 25.

British and US-educated Prince Hamzah was sidelined as former heir to the throne in 2004.

The SSC prosecutor had leveled sedition and incitement charges against Awadallah and Bin Zaid and accused them of conspiring with the prince to destabilize the country and fuel unrest against the monarch in collaboration with foreign parties.

Awadallah and Bin Zaid pleaded not guilty during their opening trial earlier in June. Both suspects presented written statements to the court.

The charge sheet against Awadallah and Bin Zaid said they were long-time friends because of the nature of their work and connection to the prince, who was seeking to become the ruler of Jordan, and “took advantage of certain incidents, including economic distress and a hospital tragedy in March, to create chaos and frustration in the country.”

Seven coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients died in March at the New Salt Public Hospital, northwest of the capital Amman, when its oxygen supplies failed.

The charges said the three men regularly met at the home of Awadallah, who was reportedly “encouraging the prince to intensify his meetings with notables and tribal leaders.”

Their strategy included attacks and criticisms of King Abdullah, “with the hope of gaining popular support,” the charge sheet added.


Six loyalist fighters killed in Syria arms depot blast: monitor

Six loyalist fighters killed in Syria arms depot blast: monitor
Updated 20 October 2021

Six loyalist fighters killed in Syria arms depot blast: monitor

Six loyalist fighters killed in Syria arms depot blast: monitor
  • It was not initially known what caused the blast

BEIRUT: Six members of a pro-government militia were killed Wednesday in an arms depot blast in the central Syrian province of Hama, a war monitor reported.
Seven other members of the National Defense Forces militia were wounded in the blast, the cause of which remains largely unclear, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.


Kuwait’s emir launches process for amnesty pardoning dissidents

Kuwait’s emir launches process for amnesty pardoning dissidents
Updated 20 October 2021

Kuwait’s emir launches process for amnesty pardoning dissidents

Kuwait’s emir launches process for amnesty pardoning dissidents
  • This could potentially end a months-long standoff with opposition

KUWAIT: Kuwait’s ruling emir on Wednesday paved the way for an amnesty pardoning dissidents that has been a major condition of opposition lawmakers to end a months-long standoff with the appointed government that has paralyzed legislative work.
Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah tasked the parliament speaker, the prime minister and the head of the supreme judicial council to recommend the conditions and terms of the amnesty ahead of it being issued by decree, Sheikh Nawaf’s office said.


Syrian army shelling kills at least 11 civilians

Syrian army shelling kills at least 11 civilians
Updated 20 October 2021

Syrian army shelling kills at least 11 civilians

Syrian army shelling kills at least 11 civilians
  • Among the casualties were several school children

AMMAN: At least 11 civilians died on Wednesday in a Syrian army shelling of residential areas of rebel-held Ariha city, witnesses and rescue workers said.
The shelling from Syrian army outposts, which came shortly after a roadside bomb killed at least 13 military personnel in Damascus, fell on residential areas in the city in Idlib province.
Among the casualties were several school children, witnesses and medical workers in the opposition enclave said.


13 killed in Damascus army bus bombing: state media

13 killed in Damascus army bus bombing: state media
Updated 20 October 2021

13 killed in Damascus army bus bombing: state media

13 killed in Damascus army bus bombing: state media
  • Images released by SANA showed a burning bus

DAMASCUS: A bomb attack on an army bus in Damascus killed at least 13 people Wednesday in the bloodiest such attack in years, the SANA state news agency reported.
“A terrorist bombing using two explosive devices targeted a passing bus” on a key bridge in the capital, the news agency said, reporting an initial casualty toll of 13 dead and three wounded.
Images released by SANA showed a burning bus and what it said was a bomb squad defusing a third device that had been planted in the same area.
Damascus had been mostly spared such violence in recent years, especially since troops and allied militia retook the last significant rebel bastion near the capital in 2018.


Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists

Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists
Updated 20 October 2021

Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists

Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists
  • Civil society members stage a sit-in outside the Justice Palace to show ‘solidarity with the judiciary’

BEIRUT: Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation into the August 2020 port explosion, resumed investigations on Tuesday after being notified by the Lebanese Civil Court of Cassation of its second decision to reject the request submitted by the defendant in the case of MP Ali Hassan Khalil.

Normal service resumed at the Justice Palace in Beirut after a long vacation. The Lebanese army guarding roads leading to the palace and Ain Remaneh, which was the arena of bloody events on Thursday, over protests to dismiss Bitar from the case. The repercussions of these events have affected the political scene, its parties and the people.

Civil society activists under the auspices of the “Lebanese Opposition Front” staged a sit-in outside the Justice Palace to show “solidarity with the Judiciary carrying out its national duties and support for Judge Bitar to face the threats.”

Speaking on behalf of the protestors, activist Dr. Ziad Abdel Samad said: “A free and sovereign state cannot exist without a legitimate authority, judiciary and justice.”

Abdel Samad urged “the defendants to appear before Judge Bitar, because the innocent normally show up and defend themselves instead of resorting to threats.”

“We have reached this low point today because of a ruling elite allied with the Hezbollah statelet, protected by illegal arms.

“They want to dismiss Judge Bitar in all arbitrary ways and threats because he has come so close to the truth after they managed to dismiss the former judge, hiding behind their immunities because they know they are involved in the crime.”

Abdel Samad claimed that “those making threats are involved in the crime.”

Regarding the Tayouneh events that took place last week, he said: “They took to the streets to demonstrate peacefully, as they claimed, but they almost got us into a new civil war as a result of the hatred and conspiracies against Lebanon.”

Lawyer May Al-Khansa, known for her affiliation with Hezbollah, submitted a report at the Lebanese Civil Court of Cassation against the leader of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea, Judge Bitar and “all those who appear in the investigation to be involved, accomplices or partners in crimes of terrorism and terrorism funding, undermining the state’s authority, inciting a strife, and other crimes against the law and the Lebanese Constitution.”

Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah on Monday night waged an unprecedented campaign of accusations and incitement against the Lebanese Forces party and its leader.    

Nasrallah accused them of being “the biggest threat for the presence of Christians in Lebanon” and said they were “forming alliances with Daesh.”

In a clear threat to Geagea and his party, Nasrallah bragged in his speech of having “100,000 trained fighters,” calling on Christians to “stand against this murderer.”

Nasrallah accused Bitar of “carrying out a foreign agenda targeting Hezbollah in the Beirut port crime” and of “being supported by embassies and authorities, turning him into a dictator.”

During the parliamentary session on Tuesday, no contact was made between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces. However, a handshake was spotted between the Lebanese Forces’ MP Pierre Abu Assi and the Amal Movement’s MP Hani Kobeissi.

Minister of Culture Mohammed Mortada, who represents Hezbollah, said “Hezbollah’s ministers will attend the ministerial session if Prime Minister Najib Mikati calls for one, but the justice minister and the judiciary must find a solution to the issue of lack of trust in Bitar.”

Several calls were made on Monday night between different political groups to prevent escalation and calm the situation.

Efforts are being made to reach a settlement that allows Bitar to keep his position and for defendants in the Beirut port case — who are former ministers and MPs — to be referred to the Supreme Judicial Council for prosecution.

Elsewhere, parliament dropped the proposal of a women’s quota ensuring female participation through  a minimum of 26 seats.

It passed a move to allow expats to vote for the 128 MPs and dropped the decision to allocate six additional seats representing them.

The parliament’s decision angered Gebran Bassil, who heads the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc. Following the parliamentary session, Bassil referred to “a political game in the matter of expats’ right to vote, which we will not allow to happen.”