UAE arrests Syrian businessman following request from Assad regime
Emirati authorities have detained a Syrian businessman living in the UAE at the request of the Assad regime, the Arabic news websites Arabi 21 and Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported on Tuesday.
Muhannad Al-Masri, the chairman of the board of directors of the Damasco group, was accused by the regime of “financing terrorism” and “laundering money for terrorists” by the regime Interior Ministry’s Arab and International Criminal Police Branch, informally known as the “Damascus Interpol”.
The “Damascus Interpol” sent UAE police two requests to detain Al-Masri, who was born in 1984 and another unnamed man born in 1969 and the UAE authorities arrested Al-Masri a few days later.
The Syrian regime says that Al-Masri provided financing to the hardline Islamist group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, which controls much of Syria’s rebel held Idlib province.
Al-Masri previously expressed support for Turkey’s plans for a “safe zone” in northeastern Syria, which Turkey says millions of Syrian refugees could be settled in.
He said that economic projects could be carried out in the safe zone which would empower Syrians. Turkey is planning to set up the “safe zone” on land it captured from the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia last month, on the Syrian side of the Syrian-Turkish border.
The Syrian opposition Shaam News Network said that pro-regime Syrian businessman Samer al-Foz, who is accused of profiting from the suffering of Syrians during the war and is under US sanctions, asked the Syrian regime to issue the arrest warrant for Al-Masri.
Despite the regime’s accusations against Al-Masri, he has not taken a clear position regarding the Syrian conflict and has invested in public works projects in both regime and opposition-held areas.
Recently Masri said that Damasco had begun providing support to vocational training centres in refugee camps and areas near the Turkish-Syrian border.
The UAE reopened its embassy in Syria in December 2018 after closing it in 2011 following brutal regime suppression of pro-democracy protests.
Since then, it has established closer ties to the Assad regime, sending a large commercial delegation to the Damascus International Trade Fair in August 2019, despite a US warning.
On Monday, the UAE’s Charge d’Affaires in Damascus, Abdul Hakim Naimi, praised Syrian Presidnt Bashar al-Assad’s “wise leadership” as regime warplanes killed and wounded scores of civilians in indiscriminate airstrikes in Idlib province.