French court upholds prison sentence of Bashar al-Assad's uncle

French court upholds prison sentence of Bashar al-Assad's uncle
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France's highest court on Wednesday confirmed a ruling that found Rifaat al-Assad was guilty of acquiring French property that was worth millions of euros using “ill-gotten gains”

The Supreme Court of France upheld the 4-year prison sentence given to the uncle of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, on charges of "abusing public funds and money laundering," Euronews reported.

The French Court of Cassation confirmed a verdict by a lower court last year for conspiracy to launder Syrian public funds, concealing serious tax fraud and employing servants off the books.

He was charged with acquiring real estate in several countries between 1984 and 2016 with funds from Syria. But he denied allegations saying he acquired his wealth as a gift from the Saudi king.

The 85 year old Rifat al Assad had to leave Syria in the mid-1980s, after being accused of trying to seize power from his brother, then-President Hafez al-Assad, but returned to Syria in October last year to avoid prison after his nephew Bashar al Assad allowed him to resettle in his home country.

"The assets held by Rifaat al-Assad in France seized during the proceedings will be definitively confiscated," said Sherpa, a France-based group of human rights lawyers whose criminal complaint in 2013 triggered the proceedings.

Before leaving Syria, Rifaat al Assad was the head of the elite Defense Brigades, internal security forces that violently quashed a 1982 Islamist uprising in the city of Hama, killing thousands of people.