Syria court sentences Assad cousin to 20 years for murder

The United States has accused Sydrian President Bashar al-Assad of launching a chemical attack that killed dozens of men, women and children this week (AFP Photo/-) (SANA/AFP)

Beirut (AFP) - A cousin of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder of a military officer last summer, a security source said Friday.

"A court in Latakia on Thursday sentenced Suleiman al-Assad to 20 years in prison for the murder of Colonel Hassan al-Sheikh," the source said.

The murder took place in August on the road between Latakia city and Qardaha, the ancestral village of the Assad family.

Latakia province is a regime stronghold and heartland of the Alawite minority to which the president, Sheikh and Suleiman al-Assad all belong. The incident raised tensions within the community.

Sheikh's relatives said at the time that the president had pledged "to punish the perpetrator, whoever he is."

Suleiman al-Assad's father, Hilal al-Assad, a first cousin of the president, headed the defence forces in Latakia city before his death in March 2014 during clashes with rebels in nearby Kasab.