Cousin of Assad denied visa to Switzerland

A cousin of Syria’s President Bashar Assad has lost his legal bid to get a visa for Switzerland.

This content was published on January 1, 2012 - 16:52 and agencies

Hafez Makhlouf wanted to meet a lawyer to challenge international sanctions imposed against him.

The Swiss Federal Court rejected his request, saying the 40-year-old army colonel could use other means – like a telephone – to speak to his Swiss lawyer.

The verdict, published on Thursday, was reported on Sunday by the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

Makhlouf petitioned Switzerland’s Federal Court in September after his name appeared on Swiss and European Union sanctions lists imposing asset freezes and travel bans on senior members of Assad’s regime.

The sanctions were a response to Syria’s crackdown against opposition protesters, which the United Nations estimates has cost more than 5,000 lives since March.

Makhlouf heads the Damascus branch of General Intelligence Directorate, one of Syria’s feared state security agencies.

International sanctions notices say Makhlouf is “involved in violence against demonstrators” and close to Assad’s younger brother Maher, believed to be leading the crackdown against the opposition.

Last week, Switzerland revealed it had frozen some SFr50 million ($53 million) linked to senior regime officials, including President Assad.

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