First Syrian state torture trial opens in Germany
Koblenz: Two alleged former Syrian intelligence officers went on trial in Germany on Thursday accused of crimes against humanity in the first court case worldwide over state-sponsored torture by Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Prime suspect Anwar Raslan, an alleged former colonel in Syrian state security, stands accused of carrying out crimes against humanity while in charge of the Al-Khatib detention centre in Damascus.
The 57-year-old, who appeared in the dock wearing glasses and a moustache, is charged with overseeing the murder of 58 people and the torture of 4,000 others at the prison between April 29, 2011 and September 7, 2012.
Fellow defendant Eyad al-Gharib, 43, is accused of being an accomplice to crimes against humanity, having helped to arrest protesters and deliver them to Al-Khatib in the autumn of 2011. He appeared before the court in a grey hooded jacket, his face partially covered by a mask.
Like hundreds of thousands of other Syrians, the two men both fled their country and applied for asylum in Germany, where they were arrested in February 2019.
"This trial is the first occasion on which (victims) are speaking out -- not only in public, but before a court -- about what happened to them and what is still happening in Syria," said Wolfgang Kaleck, founder of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), a Berlin-based legal group supporting the plaintiffs.
Raslan and Gharib are being tried on the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity. - AFP