Syrian president’s uncle faces Paris money laundering trial

Syrian president’s uncle faces Paris money laundering trial
Rifaat al-Assad, the uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is going to trial in Paris, where he stands accused of illegally using Syrian state funds to build a French real estate empire. (File/AP)
Updated 09 December 2019

Syrian president’s uncle faces Paris money laundering trial

Syrian president’s uncle faces Paris money laundering trial
  • Watchdog organizations filed a complaint in Paris in 2014 charging that the value of his French real estate holdings exceeds his income
  • The 82-year-old will not appear in court himself for medical reasons

PARIS: The uncle of Syrian President Bashar Assad is going on trial in Paris, accused of illegally using Syrian state funds to build a French real estate empire.
Rifaat Assad, a former Syrian vice president and brother to longtime leader Hafez Assad, has lived in Europe since his exile from Syria following a failed coup attempt in the 1980s.
Watchdog organizations filed a complaint in Paris in 2014 charging that the value of his French real estate holdings — some 90 million euros ($99.5 million) — far exceeds his known income.
French authorities have been probing his finances since then, and an investigating judge ordered him earlier this year to stand trial for money laundering.
Rifaat Assad denies the charges “completely,” Cedric Anthony-Btesh, a representative of the family, told The Associated Press on Monday.
The trial kicks off Monday afternoon. The 82-year-old will not appear in court himself for medical reasons, Anthony-Btesh said.


Kabul says no impact on security as US reduces troops to 2,500

The Pentagon confirmed the reduction of US troops on Friday in accordance with President Donald Trump administration’s November pledge to cut the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January. (Reuters/File Photo)
The Pentagon confirmed the reduction of US troops on Friday in accordance with President Donald Trump administration’s November pledge to cut the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 25 min 1 sec ago

Kabul says no impact on security as US reduces troops to 2,500

The Pentagon confirmed the reduction of US troops on Friday in accordance with President Donald Trump administration’s November pledge to cut the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Reduction means the lowest level of US forces in Afghanistan since 2001, when the US invaded the country and ousted the Taliban
  • Taliban welcome the US move, describing it as important in the implementation of a historic deal signed by the group and Washington in February

ISLAMABAD: The Afghan National Security Council said on Saturday that the reduction of US forces in the country has no major impact on the security situation, as Washington announced it had met its goal of decreasing the number of troops to 2,500.

The Pentagon confirmed the reduction of US troops on Friday in accordance with President Donald Trump administration’s November pledge to cut the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January.

The troop reduction means the lowest level of American forces in Afghanistan since 2001, when the US invaded the country and ousted the Taliban who ruled Afghanistan from 1996.

“The reduction or increase of the American forces does not have any major negative impact on the fighting situation in Afghanistan,” Maulvi Rahmatullah, spokesman for the Afghan National Security Council, said in a video response to the Pentagon announcement.

However, Afghanistan’s vice president, Amrullah Saleh, said in a BBC interview on Friday that the “pullout risks more violence in the unstable country.”

He added that the American mission, which began 20 years ago, is not yet accomplished and that the US had made a mistake by conceding too much to the Taliban.

The Taliban, meanwhile, have welcomed the US move, describing it as an important step toward the implementation of a historic deal signed by the group and Washington in Doha, Qatar, in February last year, under which all US-led troops would leave Afghanistan within 14 months.

“We consider the decision as a good and effective step toward the implementation of the Doha agreement. We, the Islamic Emirate, are also committed to all sections of the Doha agreement,” Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Arab News on Saturday.

He said the Taliban hoped that the Doha agreement would be fully implemented and all American forces would leave Afghanistan in the agreed timeframe.

“We consider withdrawal of the troops and leaving Afghan soil as a positive step for the people of the US and Afghans, and welcome it,” Mujahid said.

While acting US Defense Secretary Chris Miller said on Friday that the US was planning “further reducing US troop levels to zero by May of 2021,” he added that “any such future drawdowns remain conditions-based.”

As the Trump administration ends its term when President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday, there have been few clues about what the new US government plans are for Afghanistan.