Cousin of Syria's Assad denied visa to Switzerland

AP News
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Posted: Jan 01, 2012 10:27 AM
Cousin of Syria's Assad denied visa to Switzerland

A cousin of Syria's President Bashar Assad has lost his legal bid to get a visa for Switzerland, where he wanted to meet with a lawyer to challenge international sanctions imposed against him.

Switzerland's supreme court rejected Hafez Makhlouf's request, saying the 40-year-old army colonel could use other means _ like a telephone _ to speak with his Swiss lawyer.

The verdict published Thursday was reported Sunday by Switzerland's NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

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

The sanctions were a response to Syria's brutal 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.

Makhlouf's own brother Rami, who controls Syria's mobile phone network and other lucrative enterprises, also features on the sanctions lists.

Last week Switzerland revealed it had frozen some 50 million Swiss francs ($53 million) linked to senior regime officials, including President Assad.