French far-right politician slammed for selfie with Bashar al-Assad
The former leader of the youth movement of France's far-right National Front party has caused an online "scandal" after posting a selfie of himself with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Twitter.
Julien Rochedy along with a delegation of French lawmakers arrived in Damascus on Friday evening to take part in Easter celebrations and meet with Syria's president.
Rochedy's selfie with the embattled Syrian strongman has drawn much criticism back home and around the world.
"What a scandal. Would you have posed wide-grinned next to Stalin and say it was because he was fighting Hitler?" French politician Philippe Juvin tweeted on Sunday.
French lawmaker Valerie Boyer said: "The only question to ask is: How can the massacre in Syria and around the world be stopped. That's why I'm in Syria".
Rochedy brushed off the widespread disapproval, saying he was backed by thousands of Syrians and was only being insulted by French officials and Islamists.
He then said: "In Syria it boils down you either being for Assad, IS or a happy-go-lucky ideal world. I have chosen my camp."
Social media users in the Arab world were also highly critical of Rochedy, whose former party is well-known for its anti-Syrian refugee rhetoric and opposition to immigration.
"A French racist who hates Arabs and Muslims takes a selfie with Assad. Can you see now why the 'civilised' world protects Assad; because he is fighting for them," tweeted Saudi Aisha al-Otaibi.
Syrian-American Dima Moussa sarcastically told Rochedy: "Nice selfie with a war criminal and murderer responsible for killing and displacing millions of Syrians".
Rochedy, however, has not been the only political praising the "vile tyrant" recently. London's mayor Boris Johnson wrote a column on Sunday, cheering on the regime's recapture of Palmyra from Islamic state militants.