Syrian President Assad’s uncle on trial in France on graft charges

PARIS (AFP) – The uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad went on trial in Paris yesterday on charges of building up a property empire in France using funds from Syrian state coffers.

Rifaat al-Assad, dubbed the ‘Butcher of Hama’ for allegedly commanding troops that put down an uprising in central Syria in 1982, has been under investigation in France since 2014.

This year, an investigating magistrate ordered he stand trial for organised money laundering in building a EUR90-million (USD99.5-million) property portfolio in France.

But the dock was empty: The 82-year-old accused – younger brother of Syrian ex-president Hafez al-Assad – missed the trial “for medical reasons”, his lawyers told AFP.

The trial, scheduled to last until December 18, concerns crimes allegedly committed between 1984 and 2016, including aggravated tax fraud and misappropriation of Syrian funds.