Last Thursday, October 7, 2021, Rifaat al-Assad, uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, returned to Syria after nearly 36 years in exile.
Rifaat al-Assad’s return comes just a month after the Paris Court of Appeal upheld a four-year prison sentence on charges of money laundering within an organized gang, embezzlement of public funds in Syria and confiscation of his assets in Syria. France worth 90 million euros.
What is the life story of Rifaat al-Assad, who is being persecuted by Switzerland on suspicion of committing war crimes for his role in the murder of up to 40,000 civilians during the military campaign in the city of Hama (Central Syria) he is a commander of the so-called “Defense Brigade”?
Birth and military education
August 22, 1937: Rifaat Ali Suleiman al-Assad is born in Qardaha, Lattakia governor.
1963: When the so-called March 8 revolution took place and the Ba’ath party took power in Syria, Rifaat was at the head of the Ba’ath officers who had graduated from the Military Academy.
– February 23, 1966: After his graduation, he took part in the coup that overthrew the government of the Syrian Arab Republic.
– In 1967: he became commander of the 569th Division in the Syrian army, then the defense brigades joined him to train it.It is an elite division in the Syrian army, and its strongest in support.
– 1969: Rifaat al-Assad participated in the so-called affirmative movement led by his brother Hafez al-Assad, and at that time Rifaat al-Assad joined the course of an armored and infantry commander course in the al-Qaboun area (northeast). of Damascus).
He received a high-ranking staff course with a group of Russian experts on military learning.
1975: He accepted the post of President of the Constitutional Court, and he combined this post with the post of Head of the Higher Education Office until 1980.
1977: He earned a doctorate in economics from a study he prepared on economic transformations in the agricultural and industrial sectors.
He received a doctorate in history from Damascus University. He also received many honors, certificates and awards from various institutions and some political figures, such as the French President Francois Mitterrand, who awarded him a knighthood.
He is the first accused in many major crimes and massacres that took place in Syria under the rule of the Ba’ath Party, such as the massacres of Hama and Palmyra prison.
February 1982: He was the commander and commander-in-chief of the Syrian army, and led the forces in carrying out the “Hama massacre” that hosted a rebellion led by the Muslim Brotherhood against the rule of his brother Hafez al -Assad He gave instructions to his forces to bomb the city and kill thousands of its inhabitants. What became known as the “Hama massacre”.
In his book “From Beirut to Jerusalem” published in 1989, the American journalist Thomas Friedman said Rifaat later boasted of the total number of victims and said that it was no less than 38,000.
A coup attempt .. Mustafa Tlass novel
– 1984: There are rumors that he tried a coup against his brother Hafez al-Assad to seize power, but President Hafez al-Assad prevented it, and the dispute was settled by Rifaat al-Assad’s withdrawal from Syria with a large group of its workers for a period of 6 months until the crisis was overcome.
Former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass mentioned in his book “Three Months that Shook Syria” that Rifaat al-Assad tried to lead a coup attempt to isolate his brother Hafez al-Assad after he was assassinated in 1984. a coma has subsided.
The case developed into a conflict between his forces and government forces, and Rifaat al-Assad threatened to burn down the capital, Damascus, but Hafez al-Assad managed to contain the case and forced his brother to leave Syria after paying him a large sum of money, which Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi promised to pay at the time Due to the emptiness of the state coffers from the required cash, he then lived in his private resort in Marbella, Spain.
– 1985: He returns to Damascus and participates in the work and discussions of the Qatari Conference. Despite his appointment as Vice President of the Syrian Arab Republic, the political differences between the two brothers have exploded in many files. stayed.
1985: He leaves Syria again to live in Paris, after declaring more than once that he is not responsible for Syrian policies and decisions on all fronts.
1992: He returns to Syria to attend the funeral of his mother, who died while in Paris.
Many saw him as the likely successor to his older brother, Hafez al-Assad, in the country’s leadership.
He expressed his dissatisfaction with many of the decisions taken between 1992 and 1998.
1998: He decides to leave Syria for Paris again after being relieved of his post of Vice President for National Security.
2001: He went to live in the Spanish city of Marbella and invested in television networks by owning an Arabic-speaking satellite station run by one of his sons.
His investments made him divide his travel time between Britain, France and Spain, and he also worked in the real estate field, and he made large investments in this field.
2006: Against the background of a claim made by the famous arms dealer Munther al-Kassar on the pages of Spanish newspapers, the Spanish judiciary charged him with financial embezzlement.
2009: Rifaat al-Assad was acquitted of all these charges before the Spanish court, while the court issued an order to “Monther al-Kassar” on charges of court misconduct, lies, fraud, bribery and extortion by judges, and the Spanish authorities have handed over Munther al-Kassar to the US authorities who want to try him on charges of drug and arms smuggling.And to serve jail time in US prisons.
2011: Rifat al-Assad announces his position on the side of those calling for the departure of the Bashar al-Assad regime – which opponents have doubted – but without leaving the ruling Assad family. In terms of which the latter relinquishes the decision in return for obtaining guarantees for him and his family, and the takeover of power by his uncle or “a member of the family”.
2011: He announces the founding of a new “opposition” movement led by him, called the “National Democratic Council”, which consists mainly of officials of his “United National Democratic Gathering” and former leaders of the Ba’ath Party.
A life of extravagance and gambling
Several newspapers have rumors that Rifaat al-Assad is known for his extravagant and gambling life in Europe, along with his children.
1990: The French newspapers Le Point and Le Figaro claim that the cost of living for Rifaat al-Assad, his children and their entourage is about 60 million French francs a year, equivalent to about 10 million dollars.
1990 and 1991: Rifaat al-Assad’s family filed a lawsuit against 33 media outlets before the Paris courts, which won all the lawsuits they filed, ordering the courts to pay them compensation instead of libel.
Le Figaro paid € 100,000 for defamation, which led to his bankruptcy and cheap transfer of ownership to a new owner.
– September 13, 2013: Sherpa and Transparency International France, which is fighting corruption and accusing Rifaat al-Assad of owning “large property” through financial embezzlement, has lodged a complaint with the French judiciary.
September 30, 2103: The French court opens an investigation into Rifaat al-Assad’s great wealth following the complaint of the two organizations. The French authorities seized his movable assets and luxury property. The investigation showed that he and his family transferred assets through companies in Panama, Liechtenstein, and then to Luxembourg.
– 2014: Customs investigators estimated the total value of Assad’s real estate and his family’s property at about 90 million euros, and the list included a palace and a horse farm in the suburbs of Paris and real estate in its richest neighborhoods , including hotels, two completed buildings and offices in Lyon.
Investigators said he bought the property between 1984, when he arrived in France with his companions, and 1988.
2015: Rifaat al-Assad testified before the French court for the first time, saying that the money of the then Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz came in the eighties, while emphasizing that he did not take over the management of these properties . himself.
June 9, 2016: The French judiciary officially announced that a French financial judge has opened an investigation into Rifaat al-Assad’s allegations due to his alleged involvement in tax evasion and money laundering cases.
– 2017: The Spanish authorities have carried out a judicial operation targeting the assets of the Syrian president’s uncle in Spain on charges including money laundering.
4 years imprisonment
November 22, 2019: The judge of the Spanish National Court, Jose Delamata, proposed the trial of Rifaat al-Assad, along with 13 other people, including 8 of his sons and two of his wives, on charges that they belong to an organization belongs which washed more than 600 million euros in Spain.
June 17, 2020: A French court in Paris sentenced Rifaat al-Assad to 4 years in prison after pleading guilty to, among other things, money laundering within an organized gang and embezzlement of public funds in Syria.
The court ordered that the property owned by Rifaat in France be confiscated worth $ 100 million (€ 90 million).
– July 17, 2020: The newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Israeli politicians, businessmen and lawyers provided legal advice to Rifaat al-Assad, including: Plato Sharon, a former member of the Knesset of the Likud party, a lawyer specializing in international affairs, Tzion Mordechai, and billionaire businessman Arkady Kaydamak. .
December 2020: Rifat al-Assad did not appear in court and was taken to hospital due to internal bleeding.
August 2021: The Paris Court of Appeal upheld its sentence of 4 years in prison.
Rifat al-Assad could be tried in Spain on suspicion of illegal profits related to more than 500 properties bought for 691 million euros.
Rifaat al-Assad married more than one wife, especially Princess al-Assad and Sana Makhlouf, and the daughter of Trad al-Shaalan (sister of Hessa al-Shaalan, wife of the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud).