Police in the United Kingdom have opened an investigation into allegations that Asma al-Assad, wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, incited and encouraged “terrorist” acts in Syria.
Al-Assad, a dual British-Syrian national, could be stripped of her UK citizenship if convicted of the crime, according to media reports.
The Metropolitan Police told UK media outlet Sky News on Sunday it “received a referral” in July last year “relating to the ongoing Syrian conflict”.
“The referral is in the process of being assessed by officers from the War Crimes Unit,” the statement said.
The case against al-Assad was brought by Guernica 37, a conflict-focused international justice law firm that also deals with “transnational litigation involving the enforcement of fundamental human rights protection”.
“This is an important step in holding senior political officials accountable for their acts and ensuring that a state, through an independent and impartial legal process, takes responsibility for the acts of its own nationals,” Guernica 37 said in a statement on its website.
“As [she] is a British national, it is important that she faces prosecution if the evidence supports the allegation and not merely stripped of her citizenship. This is an important process and it is only right that justice is served before an English court.”
Toby Cadman, founder of Guernica 37, told Al Jazeera the Syrian first lady had allegedly participated in crimes.
“What she is suspected of doing is having incited acts that have resulted in death in Syria. Meeting with troops, making public statements, glorifying conduct of the army that has resulted in half a million deaths and the use of chemical and other forms of banned weapons. It is not just that she is the wife of the president, our allegations are she has actively campaigned and actively participated in those crimes and so she must face justice,” he said.
“It could result in the stripping of her citizenship. We of course don’t want that to happen, we want her to face trial.”
Al-Assad, a banker by trade, has been a vocal supporter of the Syrian government in its campaign to crush dissent since the Arab Spring uprisings 10 years ago.
The war in Syria has resulted in the death of more than 500,000 people and the displacement of millions, leaving the country torn into rival areas controlled by different groups backed by regional or international actors.