US slaps sanctions on Syrian president's eldest son

BEIRUT (AP) — The U.S. State Department on Wednesday imposed sanctions on President Bashar Assad's eldest son, Hafez, keeping up pressure on the Syrian leader and his inner circle.

Separately, the U.S. Treasury Department announced it had imposed sanctions on prominent Syrian businessman Wassim al-Qattan and nine entities for “enriching the Syrian regime through construction of luxury real estate.”

The Treasury sanctions are the result of legislation known as the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, named after the pseudonym of a Syrian policeman who turned over photographs of thousands of victims of torture by the Assad government.

The U.S. began implementing the legislation last month with a raft of economic and travel sanctions for human rights abuses and blocking a settlement of the country’s bloody nine-year conflict. Sanctions imposed last month included Assad and his wife, Asmaa, members of the extended Assad family, senior military leaders and business executives. Many of those on the list were already subject to U.S. sanctions, but the penalties also target non-Syrians who do business with them.

The law punishes any individual or business that enters into business with the Syrian government.

It was the first time that the sanctions name any of Bashar Assad’s three children. Hafez Assad, born in 2001, is his eldest.

In its designation, the Treasury described Al-Qattan as a prominent Syrian businessman who holds several contracts with the Syrian government to develop government-owned shopping malls and hotel properties in Damascus.