Donnerstag, 30. April 2020

RSF: abductor of lawyer Razan Zaitouneh arrested

Reporters sans frontières announced already in February that abductor of four human rights activists has been apprehended in the french city of Marseille:

"The onetime spokesman of the Syrian Jihadist group Jaysh al-Islam, Alloush was arrested in the French city of Marseille on 29 January and was formally placed under investigation two days later on suspicion of “war crimes,” “acts of torture and complicity in torture,” and “complicity in enforced disappearances.”

Awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2011, Zaitouneh was abducted by Jaysh al-Islam in Douma (in Eastern Ghouta) on 9 December 2013 along with her husband, Wael Hamada, and two colleagues, Samira Al-Khalil and Nazem Al-Hammadi. They have been missing ever since."

Raslan trial: two syrian journalists among plaintiffs

Reporters sans frontières write:

"The plaintiffs against him include two journalists: Amer Matar and Hussein GhrerArrested twice in 2011 in connection with his freelance journalism, Matar was tortured during interrogation and was accused of “spreading false news” and “undermining the nation’s morale.”

Ghrer was arrested in 2012 while at the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) in Damascus, and was then jailed for nine months, during which he was placed in solitary confinement.

“This trial is a major step toward ending the unbearable impunity for crimes against journalists by the Syrian intelligence services,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “But we must not forget that the two journalists who are plaintiffs in this trial are among the very few who managed to escape. Hundreds of others disappeared completely after being arrested.”

Raslan trial: SNHR contributed to investigation

SNHR announced that it has contributed to the investigation against Anwar Raslan, former intelligence head of Branch 251 detention center.

"SNHR has contributed in a case against Anwar Raslan in the German court of Koblenz as prosecutor was provided with data of individuals died due to torture at the time Anwar was at al Khatib branch in which the toll of victims due to torture reached 58 individuals. 
SNHR also offered the data of 195 forcibly disappeared persons at the same scope of time between March 2011 to the start of September 2012."

Montag, 27. April 2020

Scandal over painting worth 27 M € offered to Asma Al Assad

While his people is dying and starving, syrian president Bashar al Assad offers his wife a painting by pop-art painter David Hockney worth 27 million Euros.
The information was disclosed by russian newspaper Gosnovosti and transferred in middle eastern media.

French newspaper "Libération" writes: 

"When he is not at war, Bashar Al-Assad knows how to be very generous out of love. The Syrian president would come to prove it in a rare moment of grace for almost ten years devoted to bombing his country and his people. Taking advantage of the truce of fighting imposed on him in Idlib following an agreement between his Russian ally and his Turkish enemy in northern Syria, he is said to have offered his wife, Asma al-Assad, a painting by David Hockney for almost 27 million euros. The British painter, master of pop art, has become one of the most expensive in the world in recent years.
Curiously, it was a Russian newspaper, Gosnovosti, which last week revealed the purchase of the artwork by its great ally from Damascus. Several media close to the Kremlin recently launched a virulent campaign against corruption by the Bashar al-Assad regime. We will come back to it. At the moment and according to Russian information which quotes an alleged Syrian Twitter account not found, the acquisition was made at auction of the famous house Sotheby’s in London by an unknown buyer. Indeed, the sale on February 11 of one of Hockney's emblematic canvases, The Splash, a 1.80 meter square painting, painted in 1966, "representing a swimming pool with diving board and splashes, seizing the right moment after the diver entered the water, "had been reported by all the artistic columnists at the time. "Knocked down at 23.1 million pounds sterling (27.4 million euros), it is not a record, but all the same", comments a critic about the confirmed increase in the rating of the artist."

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: 

Freitag, 24. April 2020

Start of the trial agains Anwar Raslan

German newspaper Welt relates the first day of the trial against Anwar Raslan and Eyad Al-Gharib on the Higher District Court of Koblenz:

"If you didn't know which serious crimes Anwar R. was accused of, he would hardly notice you. A thin pair of glasses, dark sweater, gray mustache, shaved head. So inconspicuously, the 57-year-old takes a seat on the dock in Koblenz on Thursday morning.
As if nothing were happening, he looked straight ahead, not hiding his face - neither from the hasty click of the cameras nor from the first glances of the five Syrians sitting a few meters away from him in the middle of the hall. You, the co-plaintiffs, have been waiting for this moment for years: at last the man is on trial, who is supposed to be responsible for her torture, for her agony during hell during Syrian imprisonment.
Until the end of 2012, Anwar R. headed the prison of Department 251 of the General Secret Service in Damascus, according to the prosecutor's charge (GBA). She was notorious for particularly brutal torture by opposition figures protesting against the Syrian government across the country. 
Anwar R. ordered at least 4,000 people to be tortured and 58 prisoners murdered in the multi-storey prison on Baghdad Street. He is on trial for crimes against humanity.
"The killings and tortures were carried out at his responsibility," emphasized the chief prosecutor on Thursday when reading the indictment.
But the importance of the trial of Anwar R. and Eyad A. - the second defendant - goes far beyond these crimes. For the first time in the world, two suspected minions of Bashar al-Assad have to stand trial. Representatives of a state torture system in several Syrian prisons that have been proven to have killed more than 14,000 people. Probably there were significantly more. 
There are two central reasons why some of these crimes are now being prosecuted for the first time, and in Germany. For one thing, the United Nations has so far been unable to agree on any form of international prosecution of the Syrian state torture. On the other hand, since an amendment to the law in 2002, German prosecutors have been able to investigate across national borders, provided that genocide or other international law crimes are being prosecuted.
Also because this process is so important for survivors of the state torture, the Koblenz Higher Regional Court held on to it despite the coronavirus crisis. With some restrictions: Due to the current ban on contacts, only 14 seats were available in the hall for media representatives. More than 70 reporters from all over the world had been accredited. Those who arrived too late were unlucky on Thursday. 
Already at 6.30 a.m. a line formed in front of the court. Survivors from other torture prisons in Syria were among those waiting. For example Khaled Rawas, 30, ex-detainee in the prison of the 215 department. He had traveled from northern Germany for the process for seven hours. He finally hoped for a piece of justice, Rawas said in an interview with WELT, nothing more was possible: "Nothing can do these deeds, nothing can make up for our torments."
Experts from the GBA's International Criminal Law Unit heard more than 60 witnesses, including many victims of torture, for the trial. Some had already been reported in advance about the brutal torture system under the accused Anwar R. - and yet the almost 60 minutes long descriptions by the two senior lawyers were shocking.
Prison 251 was, after all that survivors report in unison, hell on earth. Guards obligatorily greeted new inmates with a "welcome torture". In the days and weeks after that, things usually continued. Every two or three days, sometimes every day, officials dragged inmates into the torture rooms.
There were blows waiting for bare soles, electric shocks, sexual violence or even the threat of ill-treatment of close relatives. The chief prosecutor called the hygienic conditions in the prison "catastrophic". A maximum of one toilet per day was allowed, the cells were so crowded that inmates could only stand.
The victims were people like Ali Ibrahim A., who was electrocuted when he was sent to prison in 2011. Or Hussein G., arrested in October 2011, whose bare soles were beaten with a belt. So strong, so often, that the feet swelled.
Anwar R. is said to have personally ordered another prisoner to torture him until he was "rare": According to the GBA, the prisoner was tied up in a cell with cable ties for three days, standing up. When her victim fell asleep, guards poured water over his head. The cable ties cut off the occupants' hands so massively that they can no longer grip properly.
According to investigators, Anwar R. also accepted the deaths of the prisoners "approvingly" from the torture. It is undisputed that he saw what was happening in his facility. R. had his office in the hallway where torture was, he could not hear the cries of the victims. Eyad A., the second defendant, is considered part of a clearance squad that hunted down activists in the streets and took them to Anwar R.'s torture prison on buses.
Anwar R. and Eyad A. came to Germany as help seekers after their time in torture jail: A. applied for asylum. At his hearing, he is said to have talked about his head and collar by speaking openly about the torture crimes. R. received a visa for Germany through the German embassy in Amman. He also betrayed himself. Since he felt persecuted here, he went to a police station. There, officials were made aware of his alleged crimes in Syria.
The process in Koblenz continues on Friday. It will last for months. Given the extensive evidence, it would come as no surprise if Anwar R. were given a life sentence."

Donnerstag, 23. April 2020

Trial against Anwar Raslan in Koblenz

An article in Foreign Policy sheds the light on the intelligence official's dodgy connections to the syrian opposition:

"In September 2012, a year and a half into the Syrian uprising, the opposition movement decided to help regime officials defect abroad, in hopes of accelerating the fall of President Bashar al-Assad. One such official was Anwar Raslan. He headed the investigations team of Branch 251, a notorious intelligence directorate prison on Baghdad Street in Damascus. It was one of the most feared addresses in the capital, run by a feared man. At capacity, it could detain and torture a hundred people at a time, but as the protests picked up, the number of prisoners reached four times that number, as the building became stuffed with political prisoners who were beaten unconscious, electrocuted, and hung by their wrists under Raslan’s command.And then, in 2013, the opposition received word Raslan wanted to defect. He was an important enough target for the opposition that they dispatched one of their own to pretend to be Raslan’s driver and escort him through Damascus, a city lined with soldiers, to rebel-held eastern Ghouta. Within days, he was smuggled to neighboring Jordan. There, he joined the opposition.

Over the next two years, Raslan ingratiated himself with several opposition leaders and in 2014 even got a ticket to represent the rebellion in Geneva at U.N.-organized peace talks. The about-face paid off when he flew to Germany in the summer that year and sought asylum. He successfully settled with his family in northeast Berlin and started afresh, without anyone mentioning the torture chamber he once oversaw. Branch 251, and the screams of thousands of people brought there, seemed to have faded away." 

Trial against 2 syrian intelligence operatives started in Koblenz

Germany newspaper "Welt" reports:

"For the first time in Germany, criminal proceedings have been launched against two men for alleged involvement in Syrian state torture. The main defendant Anwar R. (57) had his attorney declared before the Koblenz Higher Regional Court on Thursday that he would not give written comments on the allegations until the third day of the trial (April 27). The second defendant Eyad A. (43), however, wants to remain silent, according to his defender.
The federal prosecutor's office speaks of “the world's first criminal proceedings against members of the Assad regime for crimes against humanity” (file number 1 StE 9/19). Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is said to be responsible for a cruel machine of torture in his country of civil war. The Federal Prosecutor's Office bases its 104-page indictment on testimony from two dozen suspected victims of torture.
The two Syrian defendants were recognized by suspected victims after their escape in Germany and were arrested in February 2019 in Berlin and in the Palatinate Zweibrücken. The charges accuse Anwar R. of crimes against humanity in 2011 and 2012. She accuses him of 58 times murder, rape and serious sexual assault in Syria. Eyad A. is accused of aiding and abetting a crime against humanity in 2011.
Anwar R. was said to have been responsible for the brutal torture of at least 4,000 people in a prison run by the General Secret Service in the Syrian capital Damascus. At least 58 prisoners died as a result. Eyad A., arrested in Zweibrücken, is accused of having brought at least 30 demonstrators to the torture prison with inhumane conditions of detention. The indictment speaks of brutal physical and psychological abuse. The victims were beaten, kicked and electrocuted.
Several of the alleged torture victims who testified also participated in the trial as co-plaintiffs. The trial began on Thursday with strict security precautions and was dominated by the highly contagious corona virus: only every third seat in the audience area of ​​the largest courtroom in Koblenz was allowed to be occupied. Numerous process participants wore face masks. For the time being, 24 negotiation days are scheduled until August 13th."