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France detains man for shipping chemical weapons parts to Syria

French police have detained a French-Syrian man on suspicion of supplying the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad with components to develop its chemical weapons capabilities.

According to the news agency, AFP, which cited anonymous sources close to the case, the 59-year-old was arrested on Saturday in the south of France after returning to the country with his family for the holidays.

One judicial source told AFP that the man – whose name has not been revealed – was arrested on the suspicion of “conspiracy to commit crimes against humanity, accessory to crimes against humanity and accessory to war crimes”. The crimes he is alleged to have been involved in date back to the beginning of the Syrian revolution in March 2011 until at least January 2018.

The legal source stated that he “is accused of having, through a company based in different places, in France and in the United Arab Emirates, participated in supplying the means to various state structures of the Syrian regime in charge of the production of non-conventional weapons.

READ: One chemical weapons report should not whitewash a decade of Assad’s crimes

His involvement particularly includes enabling the Syrian government forces’ use of chemical weapons throughout the ongoing conflict, supplying the components needed for such an arsenal through his shipping company.

The detention of the man comes at a time when reports have emerged of Assad attempting to rebuild and redevelop his chemical weapons capabilities over the past few years, despite claiming to have eliminated his arsenal in 2014 under international pressure.

The regime’s use of those weapons against the Syrian civilian population continues to be heatedly debated, with critics blaming it for numerous chemical attacks throughout the conflict – including those after 2014 – while Damascus and its supporters insist that Syrian forces did not conduct the attacks and claim that they were staged by Western intelligence and the Syrian opposition groups.

The UN has also raised concerns over the status of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, admitting in January that it is unsure whether Damascus completely eliminated it. Earlier this month, it was revealed that a series of Israeli airstrikes which hit Syria in 2020 and 2021 were conducted to strike sites where the regime was working to rebuild those capabilities for chemical warfare.

READ: 7 years after the chemical attack in Syria, Assad has not been held to account

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