A former member of Syrian president Bashar al Assad’s secret police has been sentenced by a German court to four and a half years in jail for facilitating the torture of prisoners.
Human rights activists hope the landmark ruling will set a precedent for other cases connected to the 10-year-old Syrian civil war.
Eyad al Gharib was convicted of accessory to crimes against humanity and sentenced by the Koblenz state court.
It was the first time a court outside Syria had ruled in a case alleging Syrian government officials committed crimes against humanity.
The court heard Gharib had arrested at least 30 anti-government protesters at the start of the conflict in 2011 and sent them to an intelligence facility where he knew detainees were tortured.
The verdict gives hope to the 800,000 Syrians in Germany who say they were tortured in government facilities after attempts to establish an international tribunal for Syria failed.
Gharib’s lawyers had asked for an acquittal, saying he had carried out the arrests in and around Damascus under duress by his superiors.
The 44-year-old had asked the court to consider him a witness in broader legal efforts against the Syrian government.
Syrian government officials did not testify during the trial and the Assad regime has denied it tortures prisoners.
“This is an important step forward in the process of securing accountability for the Syrian government’s systematic use of torture against civilians,” said Steve Kostas, a lawyer with the Open Society Foundation’s Justice Initiative, which is representing Syrian plaintiffs.
Syrian human rights lawyer Anwar al Bunni said the unprecedented verdict would speed up efforts to bring charges against former members of the Syrian government suspected of war crimes who have fled to Europe.
He said: “History has been made. The first verdict against a member of the Syrian regime’s torture and murder machine is a verdict against the whole regime, not just against one individual.
“It gives hope that justice is possible.”
The same court will continue hearings in the case of a second suspect, a former intelligence officer charged with 58 murders in a Damascus prison where prosecutors say at least 4,000 opposition activists were tortured in 2011 and 2012.
Source: Read Full Article