German court jails Syrian for war crimes after landmark trial

First trial on crimes against humanity in Syria opens in Germany

KOBLENZ, Germany (Reuters) -A German court on Thursday jailed an ex-Syrian intelligence officer for life for murder, rape and crimes against humanity, handing down the first ever conviction for state-backed torture committed during Syria’s civil war after a landmark trial.

Anwar R. was found guilty on 27 of out 58 counts of murder, rape and sexual assault carried out at a Damascus prison run by a unit of President Bashar al-Assad’s security services that he headed.

The 58-year-old, a colonel when he defected to the Syrian opposition in 2012 and who prosecutors said was granted asylum in Germany two years later, had denied all charges.

The Assad government denies it tortures prisoners.

The trial was conducted under Germany’s universal jurisdiction laws, which allow courts to prosecute crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

Prosecutors supported by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) had gathered evidence since 2016 from nearly 50 Syrian torture survivors living in Germany, and from others based elsewhere in Europe, the ECCHR – an NGO founded by lawyers in 2007 – said.

Mariam Alhallak, whose son died during interrogations by government agents after being abducted at Damascus University in 2012, the year after the war began, welcomed the verdict.

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