German court to rule in landmark Syria torture trial

FILE PHOTO: German court issues verdict in first Syria torture trial
FILE PHOTO: Presiding judge Anne Kerber (C) stands before handing the verdict to Syrian defendant Eyad A. in the courtroom in Koblenz, Germany February 24, 2021. Thomas Lohnes/Pool via REUTERS

January 13, 2022

KOBLENZ, Germany (Reuters) – A German court is expected to issue a verdict on Thursday in the case of a former intelligence officer in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security services, in a landmark trial for crimes against humanity in the civil war.

Anwar R. has been charged with 58 murders, rape and sexual assault at a prison facility in Damascus that was supervised by an intelligence unit he headed. The suspect denies all charges.

The ruling would be the second issued in the same trial by the higher regional court in the western German city of Koblenz for crimes against humanity in the conflict.

Last year Eyad A., another former member of the Syrian intelligence service, was handed a 4-1/2 year prison sentence for abetting the torture of civilians.

Lawyers representing Syrians in Germany who say they were tortured in government facilities in the early years of the conflict, which started in 2011, expect the court to find Anwar R. guilty.

The trial has given hope to many of the 800,000 Syrians in Germany after attempts to establish an international tribunal for Syria failed.

The verdict against Eyad A. was mainly based on evidence of his work for the intelligence service that he had given to German immigration authorities and police after arriving in Germany in 2018 before he was granted asylum.

The court said Eyad A. arrested at least 30 anti-government protesters at the start of the conflict in 2011 and sent them to an intelligence facility where he knew detainees were tortured.

The Assad government denies it tortures prisoners.

Prosecutors secured the trial under Germany’s universal jurisdiction laws, which allow courts to prosecute crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

At the U.N. Security Council, Russia and China have vetoed attempts by Western powers to refer the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court, leaving survivors of torture and chemical weapons attacks with limited options to seek justice.

(Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Miranda Murray and Mike Collett-White)

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