In mid-2021, Adnan, a retired teacher, found a stranger in his apple orchard in Al-Raha, a town south of the city of Suweida. When Adnan asked the stranger why he was there, he responded that he had purchased the land from Adnan’s daughter.
A few months later, in October 2021, Adnan was found drowned in a water tank in his home. The suspicious circumstances of his death were not reflected in the Suweida National Hospital coroner’s report, which simply stated that Adnan had died of water asphyxiation without further details.
Without any claims from other parties, the case seemed closed at the time, and Adnan’s death was accidental. However, new details have emerged in recent days that raise doubts over whether Adnan had died accidentally. The latest information instead suggests that the drowning was related to his daughter.
The story begins in 2020 when Adnan’s daughter requested power of attorney from him, saying that a travel agency had required it to assist her in going to Europe. Adnan granted his daughter general power of attorney. He gave her full disposal rights over all his properties, which included the family’s Arab-style house in Al-Raha, a four-dunum olive grove in the area, and a nearby apple orchard.
The request was unusual, as travel agencies do not typically require the power of attorney or proof of real estate ownership. Instead, a bank statement usually suffices as a travel guarantee. Under Syria’s Civil Code, the general power of attorney is a contract in which the assigned agent or representative takes on legal tasks on behalf of the beneficiary. An unrestricted power of attorney contract allows the representative to dispose of all the beneficiary’s assets and real estate without specification, including through sales and donation.
The strangeness of this request suggests that Adnan’s daughter may have been the victim of a travel agency scam. Unfortunately, such scams have become widespread among travel agencies in Suweida, the most recent one occurring just two months ago. In that case, 150 people were deceived into securing informal passage to Europe but left stranded in Lebanon instead.
Adnan reportedly confronted his daughter about the stranger he found on his land, but she denied having sold the apple orchard. A short time later, Adnan confirmed that the sale had occurred after he visited the Land Registry office in Suweida. His daughter had, in fact, sold the land and all his other properties to a woman named Safa, who, in turn, sold the apple orchard to someone from the Arij family. The story appeared to have ended following Adnan’s suspicious death a short while later.
However, at the beginning of 2023, Safa’s son Shadi claimed that his mother had purchased the family house and surrounding land from Adnan’s daughter via power of attorney. He demanded that Adnan’s family vacate it. Shadi presented a sales contract for the home in his mother’s name. Alongside elders from his family, he met elders from Adnan’s family and requested that Adnan’s daughter and widow leave.
Adnan’s relatives refused to give up the house and land, leading to a legal dispute alleging that the properties were sold through exploitative fraud. Exploitative fraud refers to the lack of equity between what one of the parties to a contract gives and what receives, according to Article 130 of the Civil Code. However, the law does not provide further specifics. An exploitative fraud caused is classified by two elements: one is subjective and involves the imbalance of obligations in the contract. The other is psychological, such as exploiting a psychological weakness in one of the parties. If the balance of the sales contract’s selling value and price is in some way disrupted, then the objective element of exploitative fraud is present, while the psychological element would lie in one of the parties’ exploitation of the other’s recklessness or impulsive behaviour. In this case, the exploitation becomes a defect in the consensuality of the contract, and the exploited party has the right to file a lawsuit annulling it. Under the Civil Code, the claimant has one year from the contract date to file a lawsuit, after which it becomes inadmissible.
Adnan’s family confronted his daughter, who gave them conflicting versions of what had happened and denied that she had sold the properties. However, the sales were documented in the Land Registry. The discrepancies in the story raised the suspicions of one of her cousins, Qusai, who was recently released from prison after an eight-year sentence for weapons trafficking. Qusai convinced his family to detain and torture the woman to make her confess.
She confessed under coercion that she had sold all the family’s properties under power of attorney. However, she had been a victim of deception by a man named Raad, with whom she had a romantic relationship. Raad convinced her to sell her father’s assets so that she could travel abroad. However, after taking all the assets, Raad claimed that the travel agency had deceived him. The daughter also said that she had agreed with Raad to murder her father after he found out about the sales. She allegedly helped Raad enter the family home with one of his friends, strangled her father, and threw him into the water tank.
Afterwards, Qusai and some armed relatives went to Raad’s house, where they kidnapped his father and brother and refused to release them until Raad handed himself over to them. As expected, the group severely tortured Raad, who denied involvement in the crimes. Elders from all involved families intervened to try and stop the tensions and hand over Raad and the daughter to the Criminal Security Branch in Suweida. The two were charged with murder and fraud. The legal case over the sold properties is ongoing, with community mediators seeking a settlement between the three families through reconciliation.