French Citizen Remains Blacklisted for Assad Ties | Courthouse News Service
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French Citizen Remains Blacklisted for Assad Ties

(CN) - The head of the Central Bank of Syria remains on an EU blacklist, despite holding French citizenship, for supporting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the European General Court ruled today.

Adib Mayaleh, who went by Andre Maynard in France, challenged economic and travel restrictions levied on him by European lawmakers over his role as the governor of the Central Bank of Syria. The bank provides key financial support to the brutal Assad regime, and Mayaleh has served as its head since 2005.

Besides the usual challenges - such as being denied a full list of reasons behind the blacklisting and a chance to defend himself - Mayaleh man claimed that, as a naturalized French citizen, lawmakers could not bar him from freely traveling within the EU.

The European General Court found Wednesday, however, that the council mostly followed proper procedures in freezing Mayaleh's assets. Given the Central Bank of Syria's duty to act as the Syrian government's banker, and Mayaleh's job to lead the bank, the EU lawmakers' decision was the right one, the Luxembourg-based court found.

As to Mayaleh's ability to travel to France to visit his family, the court noted EU law does not bar member states from allowing their citizens to enter their own territories. In fact, the French government had said that any French national answering to the name Andre Maynard would be granted entry into France, according to the ruling, which the court did not make available in English.

Other EU states need not necessarily let Mayaleh into their territories, the court added. And while the EU constitution guarantees the freedom of movement, that right is not unconditional and may be proportionately restricted - in this case, by allowing Mayaleh into France only, the court said.

The ruling does identify one procedural mistake by European lawmakers in handling Mayaleh's blacklisting: the council notified the man's lawyer of the restrictions, rather than Mayaleh personally.

Since Mayaleh did not show how the error led to an infringement of his rights, however, he failed to justify his removal from the blacklist, the court concluded.

The banker has 60 days to appeal the decision to the European Court of Justice.

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