German court in Koblenz finds former Syrian colonel guilty of crimes against humanity

A German court in Koblenz found former colonel Anwar Raslan, the former highest-ranking official in Syria, guilty of crimes against humanity.

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A court in Germany has sentenced Anwar Raslan, a former high-ranking security service officer under Bashar al-Assad, to life in prison on Thursday for directing systematic mass torture and killing of those detained in the Al-Khatib prison.

When mass anti-government protests were violently crushed in 2011 in Syria, protestors and others suspected of opposing the regime were rounded up and detained in the Al-Khatib facility in Damascus, also known as “Hell on Earth.”

Raslan headed a notorious office of the Syrian secret service known as Branch 251 in 2011 and 2012 before he defected and left the country. He sought asylum in Germany in 2014 and was arrested in 2019.

Since the trial began in April 2020, the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz has held 106 hearings, with more than 80 witnesses from around Germany and Europe giving evidence.

The stories brought to the court ranged from how detainees were beaten to rape. Others were hung from the ceiling for hours on end. Torturers tore out their fingernails and administered electric shocks.

In addition to witness testimonies, prosecutors in Koblenz have relied on appalling photographs smuggled out of Syria by a regime whistleblower codenamed Caesar. The photographs show the dead bodies of thousands of people who are believed to have died in detention facilities – many of whom appear to have been tortured.

Raslan was charged with rape, sexual assault, at least 58 deaths due to ill-treatment, and torture of 4,000 people held in the Al-Khatib prison during the period between 2011 and 2012.

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