Anne Michel brings us a Le Monde article on The Assad Family's Troublesome Properties in Paris.
emotions are running high at the Paris town hall. According to unofficial information … Rifaat Al-Assad, the uncle of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad, in exile in Great Britain, in France, and in Spain since the mid-1980s, is rumored to be considering the sale of a great part of his Paris properties during the coming months.
Two anticorruption associations, Transparence International France (TIF) and Sherpa, filed suit … against Rifaat Al-Assad and unspecified persons for embezzlement of public funds, bribery, and aggravated money laundering by organized gangs.
By the associations among his properties, according to the associations, are a French mansion and "several dozen apartments" in Paris's luxurious 16th arrondissement, along with an estate of 45 hectares near the French capital. "It is likely that all or part of the assets are the product of corruption or related offenses (embezzlement, misappropriation of assets, etc)", they explain in their lawsuit.
… Certainly, in the current regulatory framework, Rifaat al-Assad, forced into exile in 1984 after attempting to seize power from his brother Hafez Al-Assad (the father of Bashar al-Assad, who ruled Syria from 1970 to 2000), and since then, an outspoken opponent of the Syrian régime, may freely dispose of his assets. Having distanced himself from the regime, and owner of an ostensibly anti-Bashar Al-Assad news channel in London (ANN), the uncle of the strong man of Damascus (76) is not the subject of any international sanctions.
He does not appear in the list drawn up by the UN and the European Union of the 179 members or supporters of the Syrian regime whose assets are considered "ill-gotten gains" (financed from funds stolen from the people, through misappropriation, theft, or illicit transfer of public money, etc) and must be frozen (before a possible seizure by court order followed by its return to the country looted).
But for many politicians, who agree with the anticorruption NGOs' analysis, the assets of the former head of the Defense Brigades of Damascus, which has long been one of the cornerstones of the regime, the question of money's origin remains.
Besides, in the eyes of international opinion, Rifaat al-Assad is a major player in the Hama massacre in February 1982, when the Muslim Brotherhood rebellion was crushed in blood (10.- to 40,000 people, according to estimates, including a great number of civilians). Rifaat al-Assad also kept his title of vice-president of Syria until 1998. As many reasons for these elected to stay on the alert, following, or even anticipating, financial transactions by the uncle of Syria's dictator on French soil. And to question France on where its responsibilities lie.
Cel phone communication is hard to come by on trains, but at one point I heard I had a message on the answering machine. I called the number to hear the message. It was my (New York-born) mother, and all the message said was to please call back: "There has been a series of catastrophes in the States".
Befuddled, I headed out into the corridor and called my parents, and after answering, my mom said I should talk to my dad. I listened incredulously as my father explained that planes had been deliberately flown into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and that both Twin Towers had collapsed.
Needless to say, I headed back to the dining car in another state of mind, totally closed off and unable to communicate with anyone.
(At one point, three or four members of some state-owned company (they may have been EDF) entered the dining car. Although they discussing the day's events, they were obviously heading to Paris to demonstrate against the French government, and during their conversation, I overheard one of them making a joke (sic). With a snicker, he said "Ils l'ont fait exprès pour saboter notre manifestation" (They [obviously meaning the Americans] did it on purpose, in order to sabotage our demonstration). Alhough the others barely laughed at what was obviously an instance of sophisticated humor (smiles were in order, though), the comment should give a better idea of the real state of friendship harbored in Europe towards America then the presumed one extant in the myth of the squandered sympathy.)
I was too emotionally drained to react to this comment, and anyway without a radio and a TV set to get a better idea of the situation, the extent of the terrorist attacks was hard to believe. I had listened to learn more, and had certainly not expected anything but empathy for Americans.
Anyway, another two hours went by without news, without images of any kind, and when I arrived at Gare de Lyon, I rushed home faster than I ever have before, arriving drenched with sweat just in time for the 8 o'clock news. That night I hardly slept, as I stayed up in front of the TV all night long, wishing, wishing drastically that the news wasn't true.
For the next couple of weeks I wore a bandanna with the Stars and Stripes everywhere I went.
(This comes from a No Pasarán post [posted] on the tenth anniversary of the attacks…)