Syrian doctor held in Germany for ‘crimes against humanity’

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group estimates that at least 100,000 people have died from torture or as a result of horrific conditions in government prisons. (File/AFP)
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Updated 22 June 2020

Syrian doctor held in Germany for ‘crimes against humanity’

  • Alaa M. is accused of torturing a detainee at a prison run by Syrian intelligence services in 2011
  • He was arrested in Hesse and remains in pre-trial detention

BERLIN: A Syrian doctor living in Germany has been arrested on suspicion of crimes against humanity in his country of origin, prosecutors said Monday in the latest German move against suspected war crimes in Syria.
The suspect, identified as Alaa M., is accused of having “tortured a detainee ... in at least two cases” at a prison run by Syrian intelligence services in the city of Homs in 2011, said German federal prosecutors in a statement.
He was arrested in the state of Hesse on Friday and remains in pre-trial detention.
Alaa M. was called to the assistance of a man who had suffered an epileptic fit after being detained for taking part in a protest, the statement said.
He then proceeded to beat the man with a plastic pipe. “Even after he had gone down, Alaa M. continued the beatings and additionally kicked the victim,” prosecutors said.
The next day, Alaa M. and another doctor allegedly subjected the victim to further beatings. He later died, though the cause of death is unclear.
According to Spiegel magazine, the victim’s family found his body with bloody wounds on his face and holes in his skull.
Alaa M. left Syria in mid-2015 and moved to Germany, where he also practiced as a doctor.
Syria’s civil war, which started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests, has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced nearly half the country’s pre-conflict population.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group estimates that at least 100,000 people have died from torture or as a result of horrific conditions in government prisons.
Half a million people have gone through Syrian jails since 2011, it says.
Several thousand people have died over the same period in prisons run by jihadists or other rebel groups, according to the Observatory.
Having taken in more than 700,000 Syrian refugees since the start of the conflict, Germany has become a sometimes surreal theater where victims of torture come face to face with their erstwhile torturers.
In April, the first court case worldwide over state-sponsored torture by Bashar Assad’s regime opened in Germany — after the suspects were brought to the notice of the authorities by their victims.
The two defendants, former Syrian intelligence officers Anwar Raslan and Eyad Al-Gharib, are being tried on the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity.
Last week, seven Syrians who allegedly suffered or witnessed rape and sexual abuse in detention centers under Assad’s government submitted a criminal complaint to prosecutors in Germany.
The four women and three men were held in various detention centers in Damascus, Aleppo and Hama between April 2011 and August 2013, according to the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), a Berlin-based legal group.
They were all victims or witnesses of torture and sexual violence, including rape, “electrical shocks to the genitals... and forced abortion,” the ECCHR said.
They have named nine senior government and air force intelligence officials, including top Syrian intelligence officer Jamil Hassan, already the subject of an international arrest warrant.


Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

Updated 26 September 2020

Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

  • Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018

TEHRAN: Iraq’s foreign minister arrived Saturday in Tehran for bilateral talks with senior Iranian officials, according to the state-run news agency.
IRNA reported that Fuad Hussein planned to meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani, in what marked his first visit to the Iranian capital.
Zarif visited Baghdad in mid-July, when he met with Hussein and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. It was Zarif’s first visit to Iraq since a US airstrike in January killed a top Iranian general, Qassim Soleimani, outside Baghdad’s international airport. The strike catapulted Iraq to the brink of a US-Iran proxy war that could have destabilized the Middle East.
After Zarif’s trip, the Iraqi premier visited Iran in July.
The report did not elaborate on the main reasons behind the top Iraqi diplomat’s two-day trip to Tehran.
Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018 after pulling the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Last year, Iran’s exports to Iraq amounted to nearly $9 billion, the official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday. It said the two nations will discuss increasing the amount to $20 billion.
Before the current global pandemic, some 5 million Iranian pilgrims annually brought in nearly $5 billion visiting Iraq’s Shiite holy sites.
Iran has seen the worst outbreak in the region, with more than 443,000 thousand confirmed cases and at least 25,300 deaths.
A news website affiliated with Iranian state TV, yjc.ir, reported that Iran canceled all its flights to Iraqi cities until the religious holiday of Arbaeen, due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. The holiday marks the end of the forty days of mourning that follow annually on the death anniversary of the seventh-century Muslim leader Hussein, who was killed at the Battle of Karbala during the tumultuous first century of Islam’s history.
Iran fought an eight-year war with Iraq that killed nearly 1 million people on both sides, after former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded in the early 1980s.