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Arabic press review: Assad's uncle Rifaat returns to Syria to avoid French prison

Meanwhile, Algerian bloc boycotts French companies in Macron protest, and Jordan convicts eight government employees on charges of misuse of public office and neglect of duty
A picture taken in 1984 shows then Syrian president Hafez al-Assad (R) with his youngest brother Rifaat (L) at a military ceremony in Damascus (AFP)

Assad’s uncle returns to Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has allowed his uncle, Rifaat al-Assad, to return to the country after decades in exile in order "to avoid imprisonment in France", according to the government-friendly al-Watan newspaper.

The Damascus-based paper reported that Rifaat, 84, "returned on Saturday afternoon to Damascus after spending nearly 30 years in Europe as a dissident".

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Al-Watan added that he arrived in the country "to avoid being imprisoned in France after the issuance of a court ruling and after confiscating his property and money in Spain as well".

Last month, a French court confirmed a four-year prison sentence for Rifaat al-Assad, after convicting him of collecting 90 million euros worth of assets in a "fraudulent way".

The younger brother of Bashar’s father, Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria from 1971 to 2000, Rifaat left his home country in 1984 after failing to overthrow Hafez in a coup.

Under investigation in France since 2014, Rifaat was known as the “butcher of Hama” for his alleged role in the brutal crushing of the 1982 uprising in central Syria. The Hama massacre resulted in the death of an estimated 20,000 people.

After Hafez al-Assad died, Rifaat announced that he considered himself the rightful successor to his brother, a direct challenge to his nephew Bashar.

“President al-Assad overlooked everything that Rifaat had done and allowed him to return to Syria like any other Syrian citizen, but with strict regulations, and no political or social role," al-Watan reported.

Algerian bloc boycotts French firms

An organisation of local Algerian companies is boycotting imports from 500 different French companies because it feels French President Emmanuel Macron is “harming the history and image of Algeria”, al-Quds al-Arabi reported.

The General Association of Algerian Entrepreneurs (AGEA), a special organisation for employers, said: "We thank all the economic institutions that took the initiative to end their commercial dealings with about 500 French export and import firms.”

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The AGEA called for a review of economic relations with the French state, adding that it "condemns the statements of French President Emmanuel Macron, and the members of the association reject everything that affects Algeria's history and image”.

Macron recently accused Algerian authorities of “holding a grudge against France”, and challenged the existence of an Algerian nation before French colonisation.

According to a previous statement by the French embassy, more than 6,000 French companies export their products to Algeria.

Jordanian state employees fined, jailed

A judicial body that deals with corruption cases in Jordan has convicted eight government employees on charges of misuse of public office and neglect of duty.

The employees have all been ordered to pay sums of money equivalent to the value of the damage they inflicted on the public purse, which is 11,000 Jordanian dinars ($15,500), according to the Jordan News Agency (Petra).

Two of the eight have been imprisoned for seven months.