British police are investigating Asma Assad, the wife of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad for involvement in war crimes that could see her stripped of her UK citizenship, the Guardian newspaper reported Sunday.
Asma Assad was educated in Britain and worked as an investment banker before she married in 2000.
The UK’s Metropolitan police opened the investigation after complaints her speeches and public appearances in support of the Syrian army implicate her in its crimes, including the use of chemical weapons, the Guardian said.
The investigation comes on the 10th anniversary of Syria’s civil war that began in mid-March 2011. The war has killed nearly half a million people, wounded more than a million and displaced half the country’s population, including more than 5 million as refugees.
Assad’s forces have gained control of much of the country with the help of his allies Russia and Iran. Insurgents still control an area in Syria’s northwest that is home to more than 3 million people, many of them internally displaced.
In doing so, the army has been accused of deliberately attacking civilians, including with chemical weapons.
The Guardian said that police officials are trying to determine if they have enough evidence to charge her with war crimes. If they do, she could be stripped of her British citizenship and subject to an international arrest warrant.
In 2017, a group of British legislators urged the government to revoke her citizenship.
A number of Liberal Democrat lawmakers sent a letter to then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd, saying Assad should not be able to represent her husband and retain British nationality.
“The First Lady of Syria has acted, not as a private citizen, but as a spokesperson for the Syrian presidency,” said Liberal Democrat shadow foreign secretary Tom Brake in a statement.
“This is a barbarous regime, yet Asma al-Assad has continued to use her international profile to defend it, even after the chemical weapons atrocity,” the letter read, in reference to an alleged gas attack earlier in the year by Assad’s military on civilians in rebel-held territory that killed over 80 people, many of them children.
Last week the Assads announced they had tested positive for COVID-19 after experiencing mild symptoms.
In 2019, Asma announced she was “totally” free of breast cancer after a year of treatment.