Montag, 17. August 2020

Raslan trial: testimony of lawyer Anwar Bunni

 On june 5 2020 it was the turn of Berlin based lawyer and longstanding opposition figure Anwar Bunni to testify on his experiences with the defendant Anwar Raslan and how he recognised him in a Berlin refugee accomodation in 2015, taz:

"At noon, before his testimony in the Koblenz Higher Regional Court begins, Anwar al-Bunni stands in front of the courthouse with tears in his eyes. "It is good that there is this process, but that is not enough," says the human rights attorney, pointing to the framed photo portraits behind him.

Relatives put up the pictures of over 50 men, women and children who disappeared in Syria in front of the court and decorated them with white roses and tulips. “I also want to be her voice,” says al-Bunni. “Tens of thousands are missing. And the crimes in Syria continue. "

In the courtroom, the 61-year-old, who came to Germany as a refugee in 2014 and founded a center for human rights in Berlin, then accuses the Syrian regime with such verve that the interpreter has difficulties keeping up with his translation.

Al-Bunni speaks of how the regime is terrorizing its own people, torturing people, sometimes to the point of death, or simply making them disappear. So detailed that the presiding judge intervenes at some point: "Less statements, please."

Kidnapped when he was about to drive to work

One and a half days are set until Friday for al-Bunni's testimony. He has been invited as an expert and yet has a very personal story with the main defendant who is on trial in Koblenz.

In May 2006, he first met Anwar R. When al-Bunni was about to drive to work, a car stopped next to him, two men jumped out, dragged him in, squeezed him in the footwell, sat on him and bandaged them Eyes, he reports in court: "I was kidnapped."

Anwar R. sat in the front passenger seat and insulted him as a "criminal". He later recognized R. by his voice, so al-Bunni. He was taken to the General Intelligence Service Interrogation Section and later ended up in prison for five years.

Meanwhile, Anwar R. made a career in the secret service. He headed the investigative department and the notorious Al-Khatib torture prison that went with it. Therefore, the federal prosecutor's office accuses him of crimes against humanity, torture in at least 4,000 cases, 58 times murder, rape and sexual assault.

"My family was imprisoned for a total of 73 years"

The presiding judge of al-Bunni wanted to know the reasons for his arrest. A week earlier he wrote an article about the death of a prisoner after torture, the lawyer says.

He also became the head of a center with which the EU wanted to support human rights activists in Syria, among other things. He was accused of spreading false news and collaborating with foreign forces. There were international protests after his arrest.

The kidnapping was al-Bunni's fourth arrest. Members of his family have been persecuted for serving in the opposition since the 1970s. Three siblings who were involved in a communist group had been arrested before him.

That led to his becoming a lawyer. “My family served a total of 73 years in prison,” says al-Bunni. They were tortured. And mostly nobody would have known where the family members were.

Everyone who worked in the Syrian security apparatus knew about the systematic torture, said al-Bunni. "And he not only knew about it, he also used it." Anwar R. denied this two weeks ago in his admission to the process. He also vehemently denied all other charges.

Torture, says al-Bunni, existed in Syria even before the civil war that broke out in 2011. “Before that, they wanted to get information about the opposition. But after 2011 the purpose of torture was simply revenge. "

The number of detainees has increased in a "frightening way". What happened can “no longer even be called inhuman”. When al-Bunni was released from prison in 2011, he continued to work as a lawyer.

One he represented was filmmaker Feras Fayyad, who testified in court on Wednesday. About the torture he suffered in Al-Khatib, directed by Anwar R. at the time - and also about the fact that it was people like al-Bunni who finally got him out of jail.

In 2014, al-Bunni left Syria with his wife and met a man again who looked familiar to him in the refugee home in Berlin-Marienfelde. But it took a while before he realized that it was Anwar R., the man who once arrested him. And who, like himself, came to Germany as a refugee. 
Al-Bunni founded the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Researches and, together with other human rights activists, began to collect testimony and evidence of torture and violations of human rights in order to hand them over to the police and justice system.

The goal: to hold the perpetrators accountable. With Anwar R., an alleged torturer of the Syrian regime has to answer for the first time worldwide."

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