Activists protest outside Syrian torture trial in Germany

Anwar Raslan and Eyad Al Gharib accused of torturing prisoners in Syrian jails

Syrian defendant Eyad al-Gharib (L) hides himself under his hood prior to a trial against two Syrian defendants accused of state-sponsored torture in Syria, on April 23, 2020 in Koblenz, western Germany. Two alleged former Syrian intelligence officers go on trial, 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 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.
 / AFP / POOL / Thomas Lohnes
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Human rights activists gathered outside a court in Koblenz, Germany, to protest against the Assad regime in the latest stage of the trial of two men accused of torturing prisoners in Syrian jails.

Anwar Raslan, 57, and fellow accused, Eyad Al Gharib, 43, are being tried on the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity. They deny the charges.

Activists from The Syria Campaign, Families for Freedom and Adopt a Revolution held banners in front of the court. One described Bashar Al Assad’s Syria as a “torture state” while another said the country was not safe.

Dozens of photographs of people the regime is accused of abducting or killing were held in front of the court.

Wafa Mustafa, a Syrian activist, was among those there.

"I'm going with a picture of my dad who completed 2,522 days in Assad detention centres. This trial is one step in our very long and difficult journey towards justice," he said.
"First of all: release the detainees!" he added.

The court on Wednesday focused on whether an interview conducted with Mr Al Gharib by police in August 2018 is admissible in the current trial, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, which attended the trial, reported.

The human rights organisation is supporting plaintiffs in the case.

The rights centre reported that in August 2018 police “questioned Eyad A as a witness in structural investigations about Syria, not as a suspect in a criminal investigation”.

Mr Raslan, who was a colonel in the Assad regime intelligence services, is accused of overseeing the murder of 58 people and torture of 4,000 others at the Al Khatib detention centre in Damascus in 2011 and 2012.

Mr Al Gharib was allegedly tasked with arresting anti-government protesters and delivering them to a notorious jail known as Branch 251 or to Al Khatib, which was run by Mr Raslan.

Both fled Syria in 2013 and were spotted by their alleged victims in Germany as they sought asylum.

The plaintiffs in the case are expected to begin giving evidence next month.

Syaian defendant Anwar Raslan, 57, arrives at court for an unprecedented trial on state-sponsored torture in Syria, on April 23, 2020 at court in Koblenz, western Germany.  Two alleged former Syrian intelligence officers go on trial in Germany on April 23, 2020 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 between April 29, 2011 and September 7, 2012.  / AFP / POOL / Thomas Lohnes
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