Rifaat al-Assad is uncle, critic, and antagonist of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. His name became notorious globally after he and his family escaped several attempts on death in Syria, a situation that forced Rifaat and his family to flee the country in the ’80s.
The uncle and outspoken critic of Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad, is a strong promoter of the democracy in Syria. Through parallel diplomacy, he tried to start peace talks in 2013 with help of the international community and bring together all those who believe in democracy regardless of religion, ethnicity, sect, and gender.
Currently, he is charged in France, with claims that his properties and capital were obtained with corruption. This May 5th, Rifaat expects a hearing in a court in Paris over this case that has reached a milestone of 37 years.
The defense has added evidence, as letters from King’s Abdullah wife, Princess Hessa Bint Trad Al-Shaalan from Saudi Arabia, where she said that the king openly provided financial support to Rifaat and his family in exile. In another letter from the former King Abdullah to an old friend, he mentions a gift to Rifaat consisting of a house in France. Among the probes, lawyers have produced a copy of a 10 million dollar check issued in 1984 and communications in writing from King Fahd, the predecessor of Abdullah, where he provided a gift to Rifaat in exile. Rifaat lawyers also offered evidence of $40 million in more recent transfers from King Abdullah dating from 2007 onwards. The defense asserts that they have been unable to locate additional bank transfers from the ’80s due to limitations in record-keeping practices of Syrian banks like Western Banks.
The two main accusers that brought Rifaat to the eye of prosecutors in Europe 37 years ago were close supporters of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his father, Hafez. One of them is former Syrian Vice President Abdulhalim Khaddam and former Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass. They both died in 2020 and 2017, respectively. Sources close to the case affirm that since the ’80s, Khaddam and Tlass regularly accused Rifaat of being a U.S. and Western spy.
In December 2019, the France national financial prosecutor requested against Rifaat al-Assad four years in prison, a fine of 10 million euros, and the confiscation of his property seized during the investigation, including two mansions and a castle. The prosecution asserts that Rifaat al-Assad, a former pillar of the Damascus regime, fraudulently built a French heritage by laundering millions resulting from embezzlement of public funds committed during his French exile outside Syria beginning in 1984. This week, amidst the global pandemic, the hearings, in this case, will determine the fate of 82-year-old Rifaat al-Assad, in a court case that has spanned more than three decades.