Montag, 17. August 2020

Raslan Trial: testimony of film director Feras Fayyad

 On june 6 film director Feras Fayyad, notable for his documentary "Last Men in Aleppo", has testified in court against defendant Anwar Raslan. Taz!5686468/:

"Firas Fayyad thinks he can remember the birthmark on the face of the man who questioned him. It was noticeable, he says. And he had to think of his mother, who told him as a little boy about her own moles: Everyone stands for a wish that has not come true. Fayyad is sitting on the witness bench in room 128 in the Koblenz Higher Regional Court - and what he says has little to do with unfulfilled wishes. And a lot with what you definitely don't want to experience: beatings, torture, rape.

The man with the conspicuous birthmark under his eye, who sits in the courtroom just a few meters from Fayyad, is said to be responsible for this: Anwar R., whom Fayyad only calls "the interrogator". R. has been standing before the Koblenz Higher Regional Court since the end of April. He is charged with crimes against humanity, 58 murders, torture in at least 4,000 cases, rape and sexual assault.

R. is said to have headed "Al Khatib" in Damascus, the notorious torture prison of the Syrian secret service, and also the investigations in Department 251. With Anwar R. and a co-defendant, suspected torturers of the regime of Syria's ruler Bashar al-Assad have to face for the first time worldwide answer in court.

Fayyad, 35, filmmaker, is the first victim of torture to testify in Koblenz. He also appears as a joint plaintiff in the trial. When the demonstrations against the regime began in Syria in March 2011, he grabs his camera, takes to the streets, films the demonstrations and the brutal reaction of the security forces to them, Fayyad reported in court on Wednesday.

He is arrested twice, the second time he is at the airport to bring himself and his film material to safety with relatives in Dubai. He ends up in Al Khatib. On arrival, he reports, he was beaten and heard screams from other detainees. "Those were screams, they weren't normal," says the interpreter, who sits next to Fayyad and translates his statement from Arabic into German. "I was very afraid."

Then Fayyad reports kicks and blows with cables and sticks, about being hung from the ceiling so that only his toes touched the floor, that the cell was so small that he would like to sleep on the floor an embryo curled up, but still bumped against the walls. And that one of the torturers tried several times to insert a stick into his anus.

“Did you feel the stick in you?” Asks the judge, it is about the allegation of rape. “Once, with one push,” replies Fayyad. Because of the injuries he sustained as a result, he was later operated on. He also has health problems with his feet and hands, and nightmares and fears haunt him. The psychological treatment has just been interrupted due to Corona.

He was imprisoned in Al Khatib for two or three months, but he no longer knows exactly, says Fayyad. He was tortured almost every day, at least every second. Again and again people wanted to know who he was working with, for whom the film material was intended and whether he was perhaps working as a spy for the French or the Americans.

Fayyad contradicts himself sometimes. Also, not everything agrees with what he made to the police last year. The presiding judge draws attention to this. She says, for example, that he did not mention the birthmark of the "interrogator" to the police. But that is important because it identifies Anwar R. “How was that exactly?” She asks.

He was brought to "the interrogator" on the second or third day, reports Fayyad. Like all prisoners in Al Khatib, he had to kneel down in only one pair of underpants. Across from him, a man sat on a chair in a suit and white shirt, his legs crossed. All of this, according to Fayyad, he felt as further humiliations.

The blindfold that he had to wear was not removed. The interrogator was afraid that he would later recognize him. But he lifted his head and looked under the bandage. “I saw his face,” translates the interpreter. He remembers the birthmark.

Fayyad cannot say for sure whether Anwar R. gave specific instructions about his torture and whether he was present during the mistreatment. But he does remember statements that included threats. For example, that the interrogator has the power to get answers. After the interrogation, Fayyad was taken away for torture. 
Anwar R., as the head of the prison, monitored and determined the systematic torture, according to the indictment of the federal prosecutor's office. "I would be quite willing to forgive Anwar R. if he admitted that there was torture," said Fayyad in the afternoon.

But R. has rejected all allegations. He had not tortured anyone and did not give any orders, it said in his admission, which his defense attorney read two weeks ago. In the prison there are no means to hang people from the ceiling, Anwar R. said, among other things. And rape is "against our value system, our religion and our morals".

A few months after Feras Fayyad was released, he fled to Jordan and from there to Istanbul. He is now recognized as a refugee in Germany. In Turkey he “kept going to Syria to film,” says Fayyad. The documentary film “The Last Men of Aleppo” about the White Helmets was made from the material.

As the first Syrian contribution ever, the film was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary film in 2018 and received the Peace Prize for German Films. Another film was released in 2019: "The Cave" reports on the everyday life of Syrian doctors during the war. The questioning of Fayyad will continue on Thursday."

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