Assad’s wife to face EU sanctions

UK-born Asma al-Assad, who apparently shopped for luxury goods during the brutal Syrian crackdown, to be added to official sanctions list

Asma al-Assad, the British-born wife of Syria’s president whose luxury shopping sprees during the regime’s brutal crackdown on internal dissent were revealed by the Guardian last week, is set to be added to an EU sanctions list targeting the country.

The 36-year-old former banker, who grew up in Acton, west London, will be among a number of Assad family members formally placed on the list when foreign ministers from the bloc gather in Brussels on Friday, an EU official said, speaking anonymously.

Last week, a cache of what appear to be private emails from the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, his wife and other members of their inner circle, obtained by the Guardian showed Asma al-Assad busy buying luxury goods from London and Paris, including jewellery, a £2,650 vase and £10,000 worth of candlesticks, tables and chandeliers.

“Asma al-Assad and several other family members will be added to the sanctions list later at the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, part of efforts to maintain the pressure on the Syrian government,” the official said, adding that there would be no announcement before Friday.

Regime officials targeted in previous sanctions have faced asset freezes and bans on travel to the EU. If Asma al-Assad still possesses a UK passport – she lived in the country until she was 25 and it is not known whether she has renounced citizenship – she could still travel to Britain, albeit at possible risk of arrest for flouting previous sanctions as an EU national.

The EU official, asked whether the revelations about the first lady’s apparent shopping habits had prompted the move on sanctions, said the measures had been planned for some time: “These are legal measures and we need to make sure everything is accurate.” The identities of the other family members to be targeted have not been revealed.

Asma al-Assad had been viewed by some outsiders as a cosmopolitan, liberalising influence on her husband, most infamously in a Vogue magazine profile a year ago which called her “a rose in the desert … glamorous, young and very chic”. But the cache of emails gave the impression of a woman wholly supportive of her husband as his regime’s forces targeted artillery bombardments on civilian areas, most notably in the devastated western city of Homs. They also appeared to illustrate her utter detachment from ordinary Syrian life. The year-long crackdown has left at least 8,000 people dead.

The emails also showed that her father, Fawaz Akhras, a Syrian emigre and Harley Street cardiologist, appeared to advise his son-in-law on how best to respond to international condemnation of humanitarian atrocities such as video footage appearing to show the torture of children by Syrian forces. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

from Peter Walker


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