EU court upholds sanctions on Assad uncle

LUXEMBOURG - Judges in the European Union upheld EU sanctions against a wealthy uncle of Syrian President Bashar Assad in a judgment released by the General Court on Wednesday.
The court dismissed Mohammad Makhlouf's request to be removed from a list of leading Syrian figures banned from entering the EU and whose assets in the bloc are frozen.
"The Council has succeeded in proving that Mr. Makhlouf is a member of the ruling economic class in Syria and it cannot be denied that he maintains links with the regime and has a decisive influence, as a principal adviser, over all the primary circle of rulers of the Syrian regime and, in particular, over his sons," the court said in a statement.
Makhlouf's son Rami Makhlouf, the president's cousin, is a dominant figure in businesses run from Damascus.
The court dismissed an argument that the sanctions breached Mohammad Makhlouf's right to privacy on the grounds that it prevented him from maintaining his family's standard of living. "The right to privacy is not intended to protect the individual against a loss of his purchasing power," the court said.
The EU first imposed sanctions on Assad and those close to him in May 2011 as the Syrian authorities cracked down on protests against the Assad family's four-decade grip on power. At that time the death toll stood at under 1,000. Nearly four years later, it is estimated at some 200,000 or more.
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