DAMASCUS (AFP) – Syria has summoned former vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam, branded a traitor by Damascus and currently living in exile in France, to appear in court.
Khaddam and 24 other family members including his wife Najat Marqabi and their three sons and daughter were called to appear in court in his hometown of Banias in northwestern Syria on April 24, according to notices in the press.
The notices did not give a reason for the summons but Syrian press reports had said in January that Khaddam, 73, would be tried for high treason, investigated for corruption and his assets seized.
Khaddam, who oversaw Syria’s domination of neighbouring Lebanon for 25 years, but quit as vice president last year and left for France, issued a statement from Paris denying wrongdoing.
He denied he had “acquired public land on the seafront or took out loans from Syrian banks that he has not repaid” but without saying whether he would appear in court next month.
The statement said Khaddam has “no loans from Syrian or non-Syrian banks” and “doesn’t own any real estate besides what he inherited from his parents”.
Khaddam’s son Jihad took out a loan of unspecified value from the Industrial Bank and an export credit of 180,000 dollars, it said, adding that Jihad had started repaying both loans.
“The legal procedure is nothing but the execution of Bashar al-Assad decision to confiscate Khaddam’s possessions because of his political positions,” it said.
In January, Khaddam charged that Syrian agents implicated by a UN probe into the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri could not have acted without Assad’s approval.
The Damascus regime in return accused Khaddam of treason, with parliament passing a motion calling for him to be brought to justice and tried for high treason.
Khaddam and other opposition figures on Friday announced in Brussels the formation of a group seeking regime change in Syria by peaceful means, but the domestic opposition has said it does not want to work with the new group.