Syria’s ex-intelligence officer convicted in landmark Germany case

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A German court has sentenced a former Syrian intelligence officer to four-and-a-half years in jail for complicity in crimes against humanity.

Prosecutors in Koblenz successfully argued that Eyad al-Gharib, 44, had helped to arrest protesters in 2011 who were later tortured and murdered.

It is the first such trial over alleged atrocities committed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Another Syrian – Anwar Raslan, 58 – remains on trial.

Both fled Syria’s civil war and got asylum in Germany – but were arrested in 2019.

German prosecutors invoked the principle of “universal jurisdiction” for serious crimes to bring the case.

During the trial, defence lawyers argued that the pair had been ordered to commit the alleged crimes, fearing punishment for disobedience.

The agency the men worked for played a crucial role in suppressing the peaceful pro-democracy protests that erupted against President Assad’s regime in 2011.For some Syrians the trial, which began in April 2020, was a rare chance for justice for a community that has seen countless atrocities.

“This trial represents the first step towards justice that the Syrian victims have truly felt,” rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni told the BBC from Germany, where he sought asylum.

Mr Bunni says he was arrested by Anwar Raslan in the Syrian capital Damascus and was shocked to later come face to face with him in a Berlin shop. He assisted prosecutors in preparing the case.

“Although this trial is centred on two defendants… it targets the infernal machine of torture and murder [of President Assad’s regime],” he said.

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