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Asma al-Assad, wife of Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Asad, at a 2018 event in Damascus. Photo: Louai Beshara/AFP via Getty Images

British police have opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that Asma al-Assad, the wife of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, "incited and encouraged terrorist acts" in Syria, the Times of London first reported Sunday.

Why it matters: While it's unlikely she'd obey a court summons in the U.K. if prosecuted for war crimes, she could face loss of British citizenship if convicted. The news comes two days before the 10th anniversary of Syria's civil war.

Driving the news: Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, a legal group that specializes in transnational litigation and human rights, said in a statement that it had submitted "two confidential filings and evidence" to London's Metropolitan Police War Crimes Unit on the 45-year-old Assad.

  • The group said it had spent "months" investigating allegations that the London-born Assad had "encouraged or incited acts of terrorism."
  • Guernica 37 said she's among a group of "influential actors" who've used a "propaganda campaign" and that the Syrian regime's "sophisticated propaganda and misinformation campaign" is "akin to that of genocide denial."
  • Given Assad is a British national "it is important that she faces prosecution if the evidence supports the allegation and not merely stripped of her citizenship," the group added.

What they're saying: The Metropolitan Police didn't immediately return Axios' request for comment but told Sky News that its War Crimes Unit, part of the Counter Terrorism Command, "received a referral" on July 31, 2020, "relating to the ongoing Syrian conflict."

  • "The referral is in the process of being assessed by officers from the War Crimes Unit," the statement added.

Of note: It's unclear precisely how many Syrians have died in the conflict, which began on March 15, 2011, following protests that were part of the Arab Spring uprising against oppressive regimes and low standards of living.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes mix-and-match for COVID booster shots

Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on Wednesday gave its approval for Americans to get booster shots that are different from the COVID vaccine they initially received.

Why it matters: The recommendation from the FDA, which also authorized booster shots for people who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Wednesday, paves the way for an expansion of booster shots.

GOP congressman forfeits committee seats after indictment

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) on Wednesday stepped down from his committee assignments after being indicted for lying to federal investigators amid a probe into illegal campaign donations.

What they're saying: In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Fortenberry said he is "grateful for the outpouring of support from my friends and colleagues as we work against the injustice confronting me."

Rahm Emanuel questioned on murder of Laquan McDonald in confirmation hearing

Rahm Emanuel during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Oct. 20. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke about the murder of Laquan McDonald during his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to become the U.S. ambassador to Japan, saying that "there's not a day or a week that has gone by in the last seven years I haven't thought about this."

Catch up quick: McDonald was a Black teenager who was fatally shot 16 times by Chicago police during Emanuel's tenure as the city's mayor. The 2014 shooting triggered massive protests, both because of its nature and the fact that the officers' body-cam footage was concealed for years.