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Vaccine mandate unleashes a mob in a small Polish town

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WALBRZYCH, Poland – The mayor, a cardiac surgeon, had just finished his service at the hospital overnight when he received alarming news: a crowd of protesters, some dressed in military camouflage, had gathered in front of his house, shouting insults through holding megaphones and waving banners comparing him to Josef Mengele, the doctor at the Nazi death camp.

This month’s small but threatening demonstration followed a decision made a few days earlier by the elected council in Walbrzych, a former mining town in southwestern Poland, to declare coronavirus vaccination mandatory for all adult residents.

That decision, the mayor, Dr. Roman Szelemej, said in an interview, reflected “the simple medical fact that vaccination is the only thing that can prevent this disease.” But instead of calming the nerves, he lamented, “it made this little dot on the map of Poland a place for all skeptics of science and reality to focus.”

Caution about coronavirus vaccines is very common in Poland, especially among the very young, and a survey by the University of Warsaw indicates that around 40 percent of the population is reluctant to get vaccinated. This is a lower level of skepticism than in France, but it is still enough to make vaccines a unifying cause for a diverse community and, according to Dr. Szelemej fears, a growing minority that “lives in a different reality” based in the distrust of all scientific, moral and political authority.

“There are no rules, no laws, no facts, no scientific achievements, no proven data. Everything is in question, everything is fragile, ”he said. “This is dangerous, very dangerous.”

The mandatory vaccination order, endorsed by 20 of the 25 councilors, had no real legal force. And it was declared invalid last week by the regional government, which is controlled by members of Poland’s deeply conservative ruling Law and Justice party, the political enemies of Dr. Szelemej, who is a centrist liberal.

But the effort unleashed such a wave of hatred that the Walbrzych police, alarmed by the death threats against Dr. Szelemej, offered him protection around the clock.

The mayor rejected the offer, but agreed to carry a small electronic panic button so that he could summon officers quickly in an emergency. The police department installed surveillance cameras at his home.

Even the mayor’s conservative political enemies in Walbrzych (pronounced vote-bzhih) have voiced alarm that his drive to vaccinate the people has sparked so much anger.

Grzegorz Macko, a Walbrzych native and rising local law and justice star, described the protest outside the mayor’s house as something that “should never happen in a civilized society.” But she blamed liberals for setting a precedent by marching on the Warsaw home of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski during protests for abortion rights late last year.

“The entire political class has been using exaggerated and emotional words. They have to look at themselves and calm down, ”Macko said.

Law and Justice, in power since 2015, has drifted into vaccine skepticism in the past, but in recent months has pushed for nationwide inoculation against the coronavirus.

The Roman Catholic Church, a powerful political and moral force in Poland that is closely aligned with Law and Justice, finally urged the faithful to get vaccinated after initially expressing reservations about how some vaccines were developed using material derived from aborted fetuses. .

At Walbrzych’s main vaccination center, in the restored premises of a defunct coal mine, some people said they were only getting vaccinated to travel.

But most welcomed the opportunity to get vaccinated. Nearly half of the city’s 110,000 residents had at least one chance, well above the national rate of about 33 percent.

Wlodzimierz Lipa, a 71-year-old retiree who received his second injection from Pfizer last week in Walbrzych, said people who attack the mayor as a Nazi “have a screw loose.” He added that, as a former patient in the cardiology ward of the local hospital, he trusts Dr. Szelemej about health matters far more than the doctor’s critics: “Thanks to him I am alive,” he said.

Still, the anti-vaccination case at Walbrzych and elsewhere, fueled by false information and conspiracy theories on the Internet, has found wide traction.

This is partly due to groups like STOP NOP – National Association for Vaccination Awarenessand Konfederacja, a far-right political party with a small but noisy group of elected legislators in the national Parliament. Celebrities and even government officials have added to the concern, with a deputy minister saying he would not be vaccinated for “freedom and personal choice.”

“These are dark times,” Dr. Szelemej said, recalling how his 14-year-old daughter was alone in her family’s home when protesters gathered at the property in early May.

The protesters, a heterogeneous band of surrogate soldiers in military garb, radical libertarians and anti-establishment horseflies, some 200 people in all, chanted threats but eventually dispersed without violence. The demonstration was broadcast live and videos recorded the protest.

“They are opening the gates of hell,” shouted a group at the mayor’s house on a tree-lined, dead-end street. “Death to the enemies of the fatherland,” shouted another. They all denounced the mayor as Dr. Mengele, Auschwitz’s notorious “Angel of Death,” before shifting to claims that the church-attending cardiologist is actually a Jew, reflecting the anti-Semitism that is endemic in the political margins of Poland.

“They saw no problem in saying that I am a Nazi and a Jew,” the mayor said.

In the days that followed, the doctor and his City Hall staff received a flood of abusive emails and even death threats.

The idea that Dr. Szelemej, 61, who has spent more than three decades treating heart disease and other illnesses at Walbrzych Hospital, is the Polish reincarnation of Dr. Mengele started on the Facebook page of Malgorzata Smietana, a local elementary school teacher.

He posted a Photoshopped photo of the mayor dressed in a Nazi uniform under the words: “Dr. Mengele? An attached message denounced the mandatory vaccination decision as “following in the footsteps of the German death camps.”

Ms Smietana, in an interview, said that she had not intended to provoke hatred and that she had deleted the false image after it spread like wildfire on the internet.

“Of course it’s a very strong comparison, but it made people think,” he said.

Ms Smietana, who took part in the protest in front of the mayor’s house, said she was not against all vaccines, only coronavirus vaccines, which she said had not been properly tested.

“We are presented as crazy people who think the world is flat. I’m not crazy. I started reading a lot, ”he said. “I spend a lot of time reading on the Internet. The more I read, the more scared I get. “

And that, said Piotr Sasinski, a member of Law and Justice and a former deputy mayor of Walbrzych, helps explain why vaccines have become such a dangerous flash point. The internet, he said, has fueled resistance fueled by paranoia, turning a “small group of maybe 1 or 2 percent” of the population into a loud and passionate force.

He said he shared the mayor’s desire to vaccinate people, but that he believes Dr. Szelemej misjudged by trying to make it mandatory. This only “excited anti-vaccine circles” and ignored the fact that “it is part of our national heritage to oppose everything that is imposed on us.”

Aware that his mandatory vaccination program could be derailed, last week the mayor switched from coercion to persuasion, announcing that anyone who gets vaccinated will be entitled to incentives such as half-price tickets to the municipal swimming pool and cultural sites.

This did not calm his most determined critics. A day later, a small delegation from a fringe group calling themselves Freedom Guardians, who do not believe the pandemic is real, went to Walbrzych City Hall to deliver a letter demanding that the mayor apologize and cancel the vaccination program. .

Sylvia Chyzy, a member of the delegation, said that Covid-19 was invented as a health risk to turn people into obedient livestock. His real name, he said, is “Cow ID.”

Referring to Dr. Szelemej as Dr. Mengele, he asked, “How can we trust a doctor who forces us to participate in a medical experiment? But it is not a question of trust or belief, we simply believe our own true facts. “

Anatol Magdziarz contributed reporting from Warsaw.

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Israel launches official investigation into deadly festival stampede

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JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s government on Sunday approved the establishment of an independent state commission to investigate a deadly disaster at a Jewish holy site in April that left 45 people dead.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the commission would investigate major security deficiencies that led to a deadly stampede at the Lag Baomer celebrations on Mount Meron.

It will be presided over by a current or former superior judge, and its members will be selected by the president of the country’s Supreme Court of Justice.

Some 100,000 people, mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews, gathered for the April 29 holiday festival in northern Israel despite coronavirus restrictions limiting outdoor gatherings to 500 people and long-standing warnings about the security of such meetings. The state comptroller’s office had previously issued a couple of reports in 2008 and 2011 warning that conditions at Mount Meron were dangerous.

Hundreds of people were funneled through a narrow passage that descended to the holy mountain site during the festival. A slippery slope caused people to trip and fall, precipitating a human avalanche that killed 45 people and injured at least 150.

Police have launched an investigation into the disaster but have yet to make any arrests.

The government said the commission would investigate the officials “who made the decisions that led to the approval of the event and determine the framework that was approved and its terms.”

Powerful ultra-Orthodox politicians reportedly lobbied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other government officials to lift restrictions on attending the religious festival.

Experts had long warned that the Mount Meron complex was not adequately equipped to handle the huge crowds that flock there during spring break, and that the existing infrastructure was a security risk.

Netanyahu’s political allies, including ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, withdrew from a Knesset committee hearing that discussed forming an investigation last month. The families of the disaster victims, mostly ultra-Orthodox, had asked Netanyahu to take action and form an independent state commission to investigate the incident.

Bennett said at the beginning of the first cabinet meeting of his newly formed government that “the responsibility is on our shoulders to learn the lessons to prevent the coming disaster.”

“The commission cannot bring back those who died, but the government can do everything possible to avoid unnecessary loss in the future,” he said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, one of the ministers who advanced the motion to launch the commission, said in a statement: “We must ensure that a tragedy of this nature is never repeated. The purpose of the task force is, above all else, to save human lives. ”

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Belgium: the body of a far-right fugitive soldier apparently found

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PARIS (AP) – Belgian police said the body of a far-right fugitive soldier who was the subject of massive persecution was found on Sunday.

Hundreds of security forces scoured a swath of northeastern Belgium after the May 17 disappearance of Jurgen Conings, who was on a counterterrorism watch list, had threatened a top virologist involved in the country’s COVID-19 program and he had accumulated heavy weaponry.

A body was found Sunday by people walking through the woods near the town of Dilsen-Stockem. Initial evidence indicates that it is Conings and that he committed suicide, but further examinations are underway, Belgian federal police said in a statement.

Conings, 46, had hidden anti-tank missile launchers and other heavy weapons in an army barracks before disappearing. He had threatened several people in recent months, including the virologist, and made it onto the federal counter-terrorism watch list in February.

Conings had a three-decade career under his belt as a skilled marksman before he began making threats and racist comments on Facebook. Disciplinary sanctions were imposed on him, but he was still allowed to work with weapons.

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New leaders, new era: US-Israel relations reach a crossroads

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WASHINGTON (AP) – Their countries at a crossroads, the new leaders of the United States and Israel have inherited a relationship that is both threatened by increasingly partisan internal political considerations and deeply tied to history and a deep-rooted recognition that they are they need each other.

How President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett Managing that relationship will shape the prospects for peace and stability in the Middle East.

They are ushering in an era that is no longer defined by the powerful personality of Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu, who repeatedly challenged the Obama administration and then reaped the rewards of a warm relationship with President Donald Trump.

The Bennett administration says it wants to repair relations with Democrats and restore bipartisan support in the United States for Israel. Biden, meanwhile, is pursuing a more balanced approach to the Palestinian conflict other Iran.

The relationship is essential for both countries. Israel has long viewed the United States as its closest ally and guarantor of its security and international standing, while the United States relies on Israel’s military and intelligence prowess in a turbulent Middle East.

But both Biden and Bennett are also constrained by domestic politics.

Bennett leads an uncertain coalition of eight parties from across Israel’s political spectrum whose main convergence point was removing Netanyahu from power after 12 years. Biden is struggling to close the gap in his party, where almost uniform support for Israel has eroded and a progressive wing wants the United States to do more to end Israel’s half-century occupation of land than the Palestinians. they want for a future state.

Shortly after taking office, the new Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid recognized the challenges facing Israel in Washington.

“We find a White House, a Senate and a House Democrats and they are angry,” Lapid said upon taking over the Israeli Foreign Ministry a week ago. “We need to change the way we work with them.”

A key test will be in Iran. Biden has tried to revert to the Iran nuclear deal that President Barack Obama saw as a signature foreign policy achievement. Trump withdrew from the pact to the applause of pro-Israel and pro-Israel US lawmakers. Although Iran has yet to accept Biden’s offer for direct negotiations, indirect discussions on the nuclear deal are now in a sixth round in Vienna.

The new Israeli government remains staunchly opposed to Biden’s efforts to resuscitate the agreement. But he maintains that he will discuss the issue behind closed doors rather than stage public confrontations, such as Netanyahu’s controversial speech in which he criticized the agreement before the US Congress in 2015.

In a conversation with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, Lapid said the two agreed on a policy of “no surprises” and keeping the lines of communication open.

Eytan Gilboa, an expert on US-Israel relations at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, says that instead of trying to thwart any deal with Iran, the new government will pressure the US administration to maintain some sanctions against Iran and seek a “strategic trade-off”. “For Israel as part of any return to the deal.

Resolving differences over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be another major challenge for the two leaders.

Biden has already moved to reverse Trump’s Netanyahu-backed policies that alienated Palestinians and caused a near-total breakdown in official US-Palestinian contacts. Almost immediately after taking office, Biden restored US assistance to the Palestinians cut by Trump, which in just four months totals more than $ 300 million. He announced his administration’s intention to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem, closed by Trump, which handled relations with the Palestinians. And administration officials have spoken of the imperative that Israelis and Palestinians enjoy the same security and prosperity measures.

However, neither Biden nor Blinken have signaled any moves to alter Trump’s most important pro-Israel steps. These include its abandonment of the long-standing US policy that settlements are illegitimate under international law, its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and its recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory seized from Syria in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. The administration also hopes to expand the Arab-Israeli normalization agreements that the Trump administration forged in his final months in office.

In a call on Bennett’s first day in office, Biden affirmed his “strong support for the US-Israel relationship” and “unwavering commitment to the security of Israel.” He vowed to work together on all security matters, including Iran.

Biden’s support for Israel’s heavy airstrikes during last month’s war with militant Hamas rulers in Gaza, which fired thousands of rockets at Israel, angered progressive Democrats in Congress. With a new strength in the numbers, they are demanding that the administration do more to support the Palestinians and that conditions be set for the enormous amount of military aid that the United States provides to Israel.

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While well-established Democratic lawmakers continue to tirelessly support Israel and its absolute right to defend itself, the growing number of progressive voices in their group have made the issue a hot political potato. The change in the government of Israel is unlikely to ease their calls to action as Israeli-Palestinian violence has continued In recent days.

However, the Biden administration has already urged the new Israeli government to ease tensions with the Palestinians. In two phone conversations with Lapid over the past week, Blinken has spoken of “the need to improve Israeli-Palestinian relations in practical ways” and vowed to deepen Israeli-Arab ties.

It is unclear if the new government will respond.

Centrist members like Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz clearly want to take a more cooperative approach with the Biden administration, while Bennett and his right-wing partners face pressure from their base to maintain Netanyahu’s hard-line approach, not just in Iran but in the conflict with the Palestinians.

The former prime minister, who is already thinking about returning to office, has called Bennett weak and inexperienced, and will likely pounce on any perceived capitulation.

The Israeli government is already faced with tough decisions, such as whether to evacuate an unauthorized settlement established last month and whether to intervene in the legal process through which settler organizations are trying to evict dozens of Palestinian families from their homes in the east of Jerusalem.

The Biden administration is pressing Israel to refrain from taking unilateral measures, such as settlement expansion or evictions, that could hamper the eventual revival of the peace process, which has been moribund for more than a decade. But Washington has yet to issue public condemnations of the settlement activity beyond blanket calls for both sides to refrain from taking unilateral measures that could inflame tensions or damage prospects for an eventual peace deal.

Bennett is a staunch supporter of settlements and opposes the Palestinian state, but is also seen by many as a pragmatist. He may be able to turn his weakness into a strength, arguing that any major concessions, to the Palestinians or the settlers, risk toppling the government and returning Netanyahu to power.

“The forces that brought this coalition to power are strong enough in my judgment to sustain pressure from the right and probably also US pressure to make a major policy shift toward the Palestinians,” Gilboa said.

___

Krauss reported from Jerusalem.

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Israel arrests Arab suspects in murder of Jewish man

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JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli police said Sunday they arrested eight Arabs suspected of killing an Israeli Jew during a wave of ethnic violence last month.

Yigal Yehoshua, 56, died after being stoned during clashes between Arabs and Jews in the mixed city of Lod.

Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in Jerusalem clashed every night during the holy month of Ramadan in April and May over restrictions on public gatherings and attempts by settlers to evict dozens of Palestinian families. The clashes spread to a holy site in Jerusalem, sparking mob violence in Israel’s mixed cities and an 11-day war in Gaza.

In Lod and other mixed citiesGroups of Jews and Arabs fought each other and rampaged through neighborhoods, setting cars and shops ablaze, and attacking anyone on the other side who crossed their path.

Israel’s Shin Bet police and security agency said six Arab residents of Lod and two Palestinians from the West Bank were arrested on suspicion of throwing stones at Yehoshua’s car. He died of his injuries several days later, on May 17, and his kidney was donated to an Arab woman.

Israeli prosecutors plan to charge seven of the murder suspects.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett congratulated the security forces. “Every enemy and terrorist who tries to harm us must know: the state of Israel will lay its hands on all evildoers sooner or later and bring them to justice,” he said in a statement.

Arab citizens of Israel make up about 20% of the population. They have citizenship and the right to vote but face widespread discrimination. They have close family ties to the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and strongly identify with their cause, leading many Israeli Jews to view them with suspicion.

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A Norwegian mother creates a home for frightened Afghan children who arrive alone seeking safety.

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Israel orders investigation into deadly Mount Meron stampede | Middle East News

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The April stampede killed 45 people at a Jewish pilgrimage site long considered dangerous by authorities.

Israel’s new government approved an official investigation into a stampede in April that killed 45 people and injured dozens at a Jewish pilgrimage site long considered dangerously crowded by authorities.

Although it was the worst civil disaster in the country, a large-scale investigation into the Mount Meron deaths lagged behind under the previous government amid a dispute between its ultra-Orthodox Jews and opposition politicians.

“The responsibility to learn the lessons and prevent the next disaster is on our shoulders,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at his first cabinet meeting on Sunday.

“A commission cannot bring back those who have passed away, but the government can do everything possible to avoid unnecessary loss of life in the future.”

A cabinet statement said the investigation’s findings would help safeguard other mass attendance events in Israel, which has sites sacred to Islam and Christianity, as well as Judaism.

Authorities deemed the Mount Meron site dangerous years ago. [File: Reuters]

Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews flocked to the Galilean hillside tomb of 2nd century wise Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on April 30 for the annual Lag B’Omer festival that includes all-night prayer, mystical songs and dancing .

This year’s figures were lower than in previous years, but still beyond those allowed by COVID-19 sidewalks.

Some Israelis questioned whether Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous government and the police were reluctant to further limit the size of the crowd due to pressure from influential ultra-Orthodox leaders.

During the ceremony, part of the crowd entered a narrow tunnel and the 45 men and boys were suffocated or trampled.

Police are already conducting an investigation and Israel’s government watchdog, which years ago deemed the Mount Meron site dangerous, has announced its own investigation, although it cannot press criminal charges.

Netanyahu had promised a thorough investigation, but his cabinet, which included ultra-Orthodox Jewish ministers, never took formal action and major hostilities between Israel and Palestinian groups in Gaza erupted less than two weeks later.

Bennett is a religious observer, but his broad coalition does not include ultra-Orthodox parties. In his cabinet statements, he said that Meron attracts Jews “from all walks of life,” an allusion to denominations other than the ultra-Orthodox.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who pushed for the investigation to be carried out, said its findings would carry “heavy weight” and could not be ignored.

The commission of inquiry, headed by a judge, will have a budget of 6 million shekels ($ 1.8 million), the government said.

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Jordan’s unprecedented palace drama moves to the courtroom

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AMMAN, Jordan (AP) – Jordan’s version of a century-old trial begins this week when a relative of King Abdullah II and a former head of the royal court are brought into the defendants’ cage at the state security court. to face charges. of sedition and incitement.

They are accused of conspiring with a member of the greater royalty, Prince Hamzah, the king’s half-brother, to foment riots against the monarch while requesting foreign aid.

The palace drama broke out in the open air in early April, when Hamzah was placed under house arrest. Since then, he has broken taboos in Jordan and sparked nervousness in foreign capitals, with Western powers backing Abdullah, an indispensable ally in an unstable region.

The case exposed rivalries in Jordan’s traditionally low-key Hashemite dynasty and generated unprecedented public criticism against the monarch. The defendants are the top figures in the establishment who appeared before the security court, which generally goes after drug offenders or suspected militants.

“As far as I know, there has not been such a big case in Jordan’s history,” said defense attorney Ala Khasawneh. He said the trial could start on Monday.

Hamzah, 41, is the central figure, although he does not face charges. In conflicting narratives, he is a defender of ordinary Jordanians suffering from economic mismanagement and corruption, or a disgruntled royal who never forgave Abdullah for stripping him of his crown prince title in 2004 in favor of the king’s eldest son.

The indictment, leaked to state-linked media, alleges that Hamzah “was determined to achieve his personal ambition” to become king. It says the prince and the defendants, Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a royal, and Bassem Awadallah, a former royal adviser, conspired to generate discontent.

Security agencies began monitoring them in mid-March, at a time of public uproar over an oxygen cut at a hospital in Salt City that killed eight coronavirus patients.

Hamzah met with grieving families shortly after the king visited Salt. The indictment alleged that the prince “took advantage” of the families’ pain to spread a populist message.

Hamzah’s popularity stems from the ties he has forged with the tribes of Jordan, the base of the Hashemite government. Atef Majali, a tribal leader in the city of Karak, said that he and other sheikhs have met with the prince more than a dozen times over the years, but denied that the king has been criticized for these events.

The indictment alleged that Hamzah and the two defendants were working on the social media messages that the prince was going to post, with the aim of “inciting some groups in society against the ruling system and state agencies.”

Hamzah has denied the sedition allegations, saying he is being punished for exposing corruption and mismanagement.

On April 3, the day he was placed under house arrest, more than a dozen tribal and public figures were arrested, including his top aide. Only Awadallah and bin Zaid remain in detention.

The prince has no legal problems, and the king says the matter is being resolved by the family and that his half brother remains in his care. The royal court has declined to comment when asked if Hamzah can leave his Amman palace or communicate with others. Atef Majali said that Hamzah’s staff were not allowed to return to work.

Khasawneh, who represents bin Zaid, a distant cousin of the king, said his client is “in shock” and plans to plead not guilty. In addition to sedition and incitement, Bin Zaid is also charged with possession of narcotics after two pieces of hashish were allegedly found in his home.

The lawyer said he plans to call Hamzah to the stand, potentially amplifying the sensational nature of the trial. It is unclear whether the palace, eager to quell the crisis, would allow the prince to make his case on such a public stage.

Khasawneh said his client plans to fight the charges and dismissed questions about a possible plea deal. During the trials in the security courts, the defendants stood in a cage in the courtroom. Awadallah and bin Zaid are also expected to be confined in the cage, wearing the detainees’ blue uniforms, said former head of the state security court Mohammad al-Afeef, who represents Awadallah. The defendants, who are being held in an intelligence compound in Amman, face up to 20 years in prison.

In the days leading up to the trial, a broader narrative has emerged, although it is only mentioned in the indictment.

In this version, the alleged conspirators sought foreign help to exploit the king’s perceived vulnerability at a time when he was under pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia to agree to a Middle East plan of the now-defunct Trump administration often referred to as the deal of the century. Jordan has expressed concern that the plan will weaken the monarch’s historic role as guardian of the Al Aqsa Mosque, an important shrine in disputed Jerusalem and a pillar of Hashemite claims of legitimacy.

Accusations of overseas disclosure center on Awadallah, who has Jordanian, American and Saudi citizenship, once served as the king’s official envoy to Saudi Arabia and has close ties to Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. .

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In Jordan, Awadallah has been widely accused of economic policies that are seen to primarily benefit the wealthy and has been prosecuted on suspicions of corruption. In Riyadh, he had been visibly involved in efforts to attract foreign investment.

The indictment alleges that Hamzah and bin Zaid invited Awadallah to join them because of his ties to abroad. At one point, Hamzah allegedly asked Awadallah: “If something happened to me in Jordan, will Saudi officials help me or not?”

Saudi Arabia, a major financial backer of Jordan, immediately sent its foreign minister to the kingdom after the crisis broke out, publicly reaffirming its support for the king.

Mohammed Momani, a member of the Jordanian Senate and former Minister of Information, argued that there was a link between the alleged sedition plot and regional politics.

“When he sees that Jordan is under pressure from his main allies because of the Deal of the Century, then he probably saw this as an opening or as a possibility or opportunity to request some support from the outside world,” alleged Momani, who said he was briefed on the investigation.

Momani alleged that bin Zaid had approached a foreign embassy, ​​”trying to ask them for their reaction” if the alleged conspirators implemented their plan. He did not identify the embassy.

Jordanian officials have said the alleged plot was discovered in time, but posed a threat to stability.

Critics said claims of a threat appear exaggerated, noting that any plot would have required the backing of security forces.

“I can’t find any evidence that leads to this kind of trial,” said political analyst Amer Sabaileh. He and Momani are among 92 members of a political reform committee formed by the king to deal with the crisis.

Sabaileh said the saga may have caused lasting damage.

“It has opened the door for the Hashemites for ordinary people to look inward, and I think this is not good regardless of how it happened,” he said. “It is better for this family to be together and not show that there is this kind of competition or sense of revenge.”

___

Associated Press writers Omar Akour in Amman and Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed.

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