Germany: a former colonel in the Syrian intelligence services sentenced to life in prison


The High Regional Court in Koblenz convicted the Syrian Anwar Raslan, 58, of the death and torture of prisoners in a detention center secrecy of power in Damascus, between 2011 and 2012. This is the second conviction in this trial after that, in February 2021, of a former junior Syrian intelligence agent.

→ ANALYSIS. In Germany, historic conviction of a former Syrian officer

The judges found the guilt of the former high-ranking officer for the murder of 27 people in the detention center of Al-Khatib, also says Branch 251. Nearly eleven years after the beginning of the popular uprising in Syria, the hearing that is ending was the first to examine the crimes attributed to the Syrian regime and repeatedly documented by Syrian activists and NGOs.

Assad regime accused of ‘exterminating’ detainees

In 2016, a UN commission of inquiry accused the regime of Bachar Al Assad d’“to exterminate” detainees. Anwar Raslan, who headed the investigations department of Branch 251 of the sprawling Syrian security apparatus, remained silent throughout this river trial that began on April 23, 2020. Thursday morning, he listened to the verdict, translated into Arabic, without apparent emotion, noted an AFP journalist.

In May 2020, however, his lawyers read a written statement in which the former officer denied his alleged involvement in the death and torture of detainees. A statement he repeated in early January, via the reading of a new statement by his interpreter, before the Court retired to deliberate. In a first part of this trial very followed by the large Syrian community in exile, the High Regional Court of Koblenz sentenced in February 2021 Eyad Al Gharib, a former member of these intelligence services, to four and a half years in prison.

More than 80 witnesses were heard

For these procedures, theGermany applies the legal principle of universal jurisdiction which allows a State to prosecute the perpetrators of the most serious crimes, regardless of their nationality and the place where they were committed.

At least a dozen victims attended the verdict. Syrian families had gathered in the early morning in front of the court, holding banners and posters demanding ” Where are they ? », in reference to their missing brothers and sisters in Syrian detention centers.

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More than 80 witnesses took the stand, including twelve deserters and many victims who exposed the abuse endured in the unsanitary and crowded cells of this secret detention center: electroshocks, kicks and cables, etc. Some witnesses nevertheless refused to appear, others were heard with their faces concealed or wearing a wig for fear of reprisals against their relatives still in Syria.

Nearly 500,000 dead and more than six million people forced into exile

For the first time, photos of “Caesar” have been presented in court. This ex-military photographer had exfiltrated at the risk of his life more than 50,000 photos showing thousands of tortured dead prisoners. Another Syrian also testified to the mass graves in which the corpses of dead detainees were buried.

“I hope we have been able to give a voice to those who are deprived of it in Syria”, said Wassim Mukdad, civil party for this trial. “I want justice done. But I don’t want revenge or retaliation.” he added.

In his indictment, the prosecutor, who had mentioned the historical responsibility of Germany, cited a survivor of the Holocaust. The conflict in Syria has claimed nearly 500,000 lives and driven 6.6 million people into exile abroad. Anwar Raslan, in pre-trial detention for three years, never made a secret of his past when he found refuge in Berlin with his family in 2014.

His defenders have since argued that he defected in 2012 and tried to spare the prisoners. Another trial linked to the Syrian regime, that of a refugee doctor in Germany, is due to open next Thursday in Frankfurt.