Syrians say the possible conviction of former Syrian intelligence officer Anwar Raslan may be the beginning of justice for victims of torture during the Syrian civil war.
On Thursday, the Koblenz Court in Germany will issue its verdict in the case in which Raslan is accused of committing “crimes against humanity”, and the Public Prosecution has demanded that he be imprisoned for life.
Waseem Miqdad, a Syrian who says he was tortured and testified against Raslan during trialThe conviction could send an important message that those responsible for war crimes in Syria will be punished for their actions.
Miqdad, who currently lives in Germany, added: “The Syrians have suffered a lot, especially at the beginning of the revolution. (The trial) shows that their suffering was not in vain.”
In a ruling that was the first of its kind, this trial, which was divided into two parts on February 24, resulted in the conviction of former member of the Syrian intelligence, Iyad Al-Gharib, and imprisoned for four and a half years on charges of “complicity in crimes against humanity”.
The court said at the time that al-Gharib was part of an intelligence unit that arrested opponents of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and tortured them in a facility known as “Branch 251” in the city of Douma.
The German prosecutor says that Raslan was the first responsible for this prison and personally supervised the “brutal and systematic torture” of more than 4,000 prisoners, which resulted in the death of at least 58 people between April 2011 and September 2012.
Lawyer Patrick Crocker, who works with the European Center for Human and Constitutional Rights and represents a number of the plaintiffs, said that the prosecution provided evidence of Raslan’s direct involvement in the killing of 30 people inside the prison.
Crocker, who sees the trial as a precedent that may open the door to more trials of members of the Bashar al-Assad regime, confirmed that the charges against Raslan include sexual abuse against the imprisoned victims.
Raslan’s lawyers demanded the court to acquit their client, stressing that he had not tortured anyone and defected from the Assad regime at the end of 2012.
Miqdad expresses his satisfaction with Raslan’s trial in Germany, adding: “This is in fact what we were seeking. To solve our problems through laws and fair trials, not through violence and counter-violence, and not through revenge and the law of the jungle.”
He added, “It is a long road but every long way begins with a step. For me, this is the first step.”