Suspect in Germany accused of war crimes over grenade attack on Damascus food queue

Seven people died in the 2014 attack in the Yarmouk district of the Syrian capital

The ravaged Yarmouk camp, south of Syria's capital Damascus. AFP

A man who allegedly launched a grenade into a crowd of people waiting for food in Damascus in 2014, killing at least seven people, has been charged in Germany with war crimes and murder.

The stateless man, identified only as Moafak D in line with German privacy laws, was a member of the Free Palestine Movement, one of the groups that at the time controlled the Yarmouk district of the Syrian capital on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.

Federal prosecutors said that on March 23, 2014, the suspect launched a grenade from an anti-tank weapon into a crowd waiting for food aid from UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, in the district's Rejeh Square .

At least seven people were killed and three wounded, including a six-year-old child.

The Yarmouk district, which grew out of a Palestinian refugee camp, was cordoned off by the Syrian government from July 2013 to April 2015, causing shortages of food, water and medical supplies.

The suspect was arrested in Berlin on August 4. Prosecutors on Thursday did not say how or when he came to Germany but he had an apartment in the city, which was searched at the same time as his arrest.

Moafak D – who officials originally said was Syrian – has been charged at a regional court in the German capital with war crimes, seven counts of murder, three of attempted murder and three of bodily harm.

Germany's application of the rule of "universal jurisdiction", allowing the prosecution of serious crimes committed abroad, led in January to the first conviction of a senior Syrian official for crimes against humanity.

The Berlin court will now have to decide whether to bring Moafak D's case to trial.

Updated: April 15, 2022, 12:32 PM