Syrian doctor goes on trial in Germany accused of torture in military hospitals

The suspect is led into the security room of the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt.
The suspect is led into the security room of the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt. Copyright Boris Roessler/Pool Photo via AP
Copyright Boris Roessler/Pool Photo via AP
By AP with Euronews
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It is the second such case in Germany after a former Syrian colonel was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity last week.

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A Syrian doctor has gone on trial in Germany accused of crimes against humanity during the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Prosecutors say the suspect -- identified only as Alaa M. -- tortured and killed inmates at a government-run prison and two military hospitals.

Alaa M. allegedly worked at a military intelligence prison in the Syrian city of Homs from April 2011 until late 2012, prosecutors said.

He is accused of killing one person and 18 counts of torture, as well as causing serious physical and psychological harm to others.

The regional court in Frankfurt heard that he has used his power as a doctor to "suppress the uprising of a part of the Syrian population."

The suspect arrived in Germany in 2015 and was allowed to practice medicine under his Syrian medical credentials. The 36-year-old reportedly worked at a health centre near Kassel, where he was recognised by multiple Syrian nationals reported to German police.

Alaa M. -- who has been in pretrial detention since his arrest in June 2020, has denied the allegations.

This latest case follows last week’s landmark conviction of a former Syrian intelligence officer for crimes against humanity.

Anwar Raslan was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of dozens of people and the torture of thousands in a detention centre near Damascus.

The verdict was the first to examine crimes attributed to the Syrian regime and documented countless times by Syrian activists and NGOs. A junior intelligence officer was earlier convicted in the same case in 2021.

Like other European countries, Germany has applied universal jurisdiction laws to prosecute serious crimes even if they occurred abroad.

Human Rights Watch has urged the Frankfurt court to make Arabic translation available so that the public can understand the complicated legal proceedings.

Balkees Jarrah, the group’s interim international justice director, noted that Syrian survivors and activists had been central to the effort to bringing those responsible for abuses in Syria to justice.

“To be meaningful, justice should not only be done, but be seen to be done,” she said.

“Court authorities should make Arabic translation more widely available for these cases involving the world’s worst crimes committed abroad.”

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