Jordanians welcome jailing of king’s aide despite questions over legitimacy of trial

Bassem Awadallah and businessman Sharif Hassan bin Zaid jailed for 15 years for sedition

The jailing of a former senior aide to Jordan’s King Abdullah and a distant relative of the monarch has been welcomed by many Jordanians despite questions over the legitimacy of their trial.

Bassem Awadallah, who holds Jordanian, US, and Saudi citizenship, is a former chief of Jordan's royal court and ex-finance minister. Businessman Sharif Hassan bin Zaid once served as special envoy to Saudi Arabia. They have each been jailed for 15 years for sedition.

Both men pleaded not guilty at their trial, which was conducted behind closed doors before Jordan’s state security court in six sessions without witnesses.

Awadallah's lawyer Michael Sullivan, an ex-US federal prosecutor who raised allegations of mistreatment of his client, told the Associated Press the proceedings were "completely unfair". The prosecutors' office dismissed both complaints. The defence plans to appeal the verdict.


Awadallah and Sharif Hussein were arrested in April, accused of undermining Jordan's political system, threatening public order, and seeking to replace the king with Prince Hamzah, his half-brother who was crown prince until 2004 when replaced by the king's son.

House arrest

Held under house arrest after declaring his allegiance to the king, Prince Hamzah had campaigned against mismanagement, securing backing from Jordan’s tribesmen, who for a century have been the foundation of the monarchy.

Although many Jordanians do not give credence to the conspiracy, they applaud Awadallah’s incarceration. He was the architect of a failed neoliberal makeover of Jordan’s troubled economy.

"He built a centre of power in the royal court which destabilised the bureaucratic system, and this helped create the situation of corruption and bad governance," Jordanian political analyst Amer Sabaileh told al-Jazeera. He argued that Awadallah should have been on trial on these charges.

Privatisation of public firms and lands accelerated the Jordanian economy’s downward trajectory, widened inequality between urban and rural areas, and angered tribesmen who lost grazing and farming lands.

New tax laws aimed at increasing state revenue generated popular protests and brought down successive governments. Reforms promised during the 2011 turbulent Arab Spring were not enacted, deepening disaffection.


Although Jordan has few natural resources, its population has ballooned to 10 million, partly due to an influx of Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni refugees. Wealthy Jordanians have been spared harm from the contraction of the economy over the past three years while the poverty level has risen to 15 per cent.

The 2020 overall unemployment rate stood at 25 per cent, but it is at 50 per cent for young people. Remittances from Jordanians working abroad have diminished. Tourism, which accounts for 18 per cent of GDP and employment, has collapsed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Foreign funding has kept the government afloat. Last year, Jordan received $3.72 billion (€3.15 billion) in financial aid, with the US providing $1 billion, while Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates have shifted from budgetary aid to loan guarantees and deposits in the central bank.