Syria’s former defense minister Mustafa Tlass passes away in Paris

June 27, 2017 10:30 pm

This file photo taken on March 17, 2000 shows former Syrian Defense Minister Mustapha Tlass walking during his meeting with Lebanese Agriculture Minister Soleiman Frangie in Bneshii, in northern Lebanon. (Photo by AFP)

’s former defense minister , a close friend of President Bashar al-Assad’s father and predecessor Hafez, died in Paris on Tuesday, his son Firas said. He was 85.
Tlass died in a hospital on the outskirts of the French capital.
Tlass “died this morning at the Avicenne hospital and will be buried in Paris in the hope he can one day be buried in Damascus,” Firas Tlass told AFP.
The former minister, who settled in France five years ago, had been admitted to hospital in mid-June after suffering a hip fracture, his son said.
He fell into a coma on Monday evening.
A childhood friend of Bashar al-Assad, Manaf Tlass later said French secret agents had helped him escape the country in 2012.
A leading member of Syria’s ruling Baath party, he was close to Hafez al-Assad, succeeding his friend as defense minister in 1972.
Assad went on to rule the country until his death in 2000, when he was succeeded by his son Bashar, who was 34 at the time.

This handout file picture released on August 02, 2000 by the official Syrian News Agency (SANA) shows then Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) during a dinner in Damascus to marking the Army Day. (Photo by AFP)

Tlass remained in his post until he finally quit in 2004.
Originally from Rastan in central Syria, under militant control since 2012, Tlass was one of the most senior Sunni Muslims in the Assad regime’s Alawite-dominated security apparatus.
In a rare 2005 interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, the former minister defended a 1980s crackdown against a Muslim Brotherhood-led uprising, despite admitting that at its height, 150 people a week were hanged in Damascus alone.
“We used weapons to assume power, and we wanted to hold onto it. Anyone who wants power will have to take it from us with weapons,” he said.
He wrote several books including his 1983 “The Matzah of Zion”, a bestseller in the Arab world, in which he claimed that Damascus Jews had killed two Christians in 1840 in order to use their blood in religious rituals.
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