Second Syria torture trial opens in Germany


BERLIN (Reuters) – A Syrian physician suspected of crimes towards humanity, together with torturing prisoners at army hospitals in Syria, goes on trial in Germany on Wednesday in the second such case over alleged state-backed torture in Syria’s battle.

After a landmark German courtroom ruling final week sentencing a Syrian former intelligence officer to life imprisonment for crimes towards humanity, the trial of the 36-year-old physician will begin on the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt am Main.

The defendant, recognized as Alaa M. beneath German privateness legal guidelines, is accused of torturing opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whereas working as a physician at a army jail and hospitals in Homs and Damascus in 2011 and 2012.

The Assad authorities denies accusations of getting tortured prisoners.

Alaa M. arrived in Germany in 2015 to work as a physician, till he was arrested in June 2020. He has been in pre-trial detention since then.

German prosecutors have used common jurisdiction legal guidelines that permit them to hunt trials for suspects in crimes towards humanity dedicated anyplace in the world.

Prosecutors have charged Alaa M. with 18 instances of torture and say he killed one of many prisoners. In one of many instances, the defendant is accused of finishing up a bone fracture correction surgical procedure with out enough anaesthesia.

He can also be accused of trying to deprive prisoners of their reproductive capability in two instances.

Other torture strategies that prosecutors say he used towards detained civilians embody dousing the genitals of a teenage boy with alcohol at Homs army hospital and igniting them with a lighter.

The physician additionally labored on the Mezzeh 601 army hospital in Damascus whose morgues and courtyard, based on Human Rights Watch, had been seen in a cache of pictures which depicted the dimensions of state-sponsored torture towards civilians and had been smuggled overseas by a authorities photographer often known as Caesar.

Antonia Klein, a authorized adviser on the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), which is supporting a plaintiff in the case, mentioned sexual violence as a criminal offense towards humanity will play an essential function in the trial.

“The trial additionally exhibits…how various the crimes (in Syria’s battle) are and the way a lot remains to be to return,” mentioned Klein.

Syrian lawyer Anwar al-Bunni, who heads a human rights group in Berlin that helped construct the case towards Alaa M., mentioned the trial would yield extra proof that the Syrian authorities abetted torture to beat an rebellion towards Assad.

“We hope he’ll get a life sentence,” al-Bunni mentioned, including that he anticipated the courtroom to succeed in a verdict by the top of this yr.

(Editing by Joseph Nasr and Mark Heinrich)

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