Emails show father-in-law 'advised' Assad

Bashar al-Assad's father-in-law has been offering advice to the Syrian president on how to depict to the world his bloody crackdown on a popular uprising, a fresh cache of emails printed by Britain's Guardian newspaper shows.

Fawaz Akhras, a 66-year-old cardiologist and the father of Assad's British-born wife Asma, sent his son-in-law suggestions on how to counter criticisms of his government in private emails to the president, according to the London newspaper.

The emails show Akhras offering moral support and public relations guidance to Assad, who has branded his opponents as "terrorists" and "armed gangs" steered by a foreign conspiracy to overthrow him.

They were part of a cache of 3,000 emails sent or received by the presidential couple between June last year and early February, obtained from an unnamed Syrian opposition member and which the Guardian says it believes are genuine.

In one email in December Akhras sent Assad an internet blog dismissing as "British propaganda" a Channel 4 TV documentary which showed video evidence of torture in Syria, adding that it "might be of some help towards drafting the embassy's response".

Earlier the same month, Akhras offered Assad and his wife a list of 13 points to rebut international criticism and help in "directing the argument or discussion toward the other side."

In the message he accused Britain's publicly-funded BBC of a "facts distortion policy" and asked why the UN Human Rights Council was so concerned about Syrian deaths when compared to the toll in last year's overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

The list also cited the "harsh and inhuman attacks" on anti-capitalist demonstrators in Wall Street and London, as well as the US "torture policy" at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

In one short message to his daughter in late December Akhras queried whether it was correct that a big New Year party was being organised for Damascus's central Umayyad Square. "If so, is this the right time?" he wrote.

The Guardian said Akhras had not responded to requests for comment ahead of publication.