Two former officers with Syria's secret services have been charged by prosecutors in the southeastern city of Karlsruhe. The case pertains to alleged crimes committed in Syrian jails during the country's conflict.
Two suspected former Syrian secret service officers have been charged with participating in mass rape, torture and crimes against humanity, German federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.
In a coordinated operation by German and French authorities, two men were arrested in the regions of Berlin and Rhineland-Palatinate in February together with a third suspect who was arrested in France.
The defendants, Anwar R. and Eyad A-G, left Syria in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Anwar R. is believed to have headed an investigative unit with its own prison in the Damascus area from April 2011 to September 2012.
According to prosecutors, the unit specialized in fighting members of Syria's opposition and systematically tortured people to obtain confessions and information.
Karlsruhe prosecutors charged Anwar R. on October 22. He is suspected of "complicity in crimes against humanity" and stands accused of "murder in 58 cases, rape and aggravated sexual assault" in the jail where more than 4,000 prisoners suffered "brutal and massive torture."
The second defendant, Eyad A-G, is said to have hunted down members of an anti-government protest in the town of Douma in 2011, imprisoning them in the same Damascus unit despite having knowledge of its torture practices.
Prosecutors said Eyad A-G had allegedly aided and abetted two killings and the physical abuse of at least 30 people in 2011.
Read more: Opinion: Europe has also betrayed the Syrians
The Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights commended Tuesday's trial. "The first trial worldwide about state torture in Syria is expected to start in Germany in early 2020 — an important step in the fight against impunity," they added.
Several other legal cases are now pending in Germany against Assad's government.
In 2018, German prosecutors issued an international arrest warrant for Jamil Hassan, a high-ranking Syrian official who led the country's air force intelligence directorate and is accused of overseeing the torture and killings of hundreds of detainees.
The case has been filed under universal jurisdiction, which allows any country to try suspects irrespective of where the alleged crimes were carried out.
Editor's note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and urges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.
mvb/stb (AFP, dpa)
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