Syrian regime President Bashar Al-Assad has allowed his uncle back into the country after a decades-long exile in France, news reports revealed on Friday, noting that Al-Assad allowed his uncle's return to avoid a four-year imprisonment.
Rifaat Al-Assad, 84, arrived in Damascus on Thursday, pro-regime Al-Watan newspaper posted on its Facebook page.
His return came about a month after a Paris appeals court upheld a four-year prison sentence against him last year for misappropriating public funds in Syria, laundering the spoils, and building a vast property portfolio in France with ill-gotten gains, France 24 disclosed.
Rifaat was stripped of his power and exiled by his brother Hafez, Bashar Al-Assad's father, in 1984, after leading a failed coup attempt in the country.
In 1982, Rifaat, who was Syrian vice president and a strongman for his brother Hafez, commanded forces that brutally suppressed an uprising in the Syrian city of Hama, killing more than 10,000 civilians. For that reason, he was named "The Butcher of Hama".
Al-Watan revealed that Bashar Al-Assad had forgiven his uncle for "all that he had done" and "has allowed him to return to Syria as any other Syrian citizen," pointing out that he "will have no political or social role."
Rifaat had been under investigation by the French authorities since 2014 and was found guilty of money laundering by a Paris court.
However, he was not imprisoned, but the confiscation of his French real estate assets, worth an estimated €90 million ($106 million), was ordered at his initial trial, AFP said.
According to AFP, Rifaat and his family built a huge portfolio of properties in Spain, valued at around €695 million, which were all seized by the Spanish authorities in 2017.