Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer
Report on 13 October 2021 at Koblenz Court on a dissident former Syrian Air Force officer requested by the Defense who had been in contact with the accused Anwar Raslan.
At the beginning of the hearing on 13 October 2021, the panel of judges stated the photographs the lawyer and civil plaintiff, Mr. Firas Fayyad, demanded would not be displayed as they were the same as in the witness’s testimony proven before the court and did not constitute any additional evidence.
A witness requested by the defense team the panel of judges had contacted before his arrival in the court from France then entered the hearing on 30/09/21. His presence was requested because of his contacts with the accused within the scope of their previous work and their meeting during his exile trip when, according to the accused, the witness had assisted him.
The witness began by explaining he was a former Syrian Air Force officer who defected in May, 2012. His work had been completely humanitarian in order to alleviate the suffering of the people and had nothing to do with politics or even the armed conflict.
He noted that before 2011, the army had nothing to do with intelligence work. However, all parties, even customs, then began practicing arrests and torture, so he defected because he was not satisfied with the regime’s behaviour.
He went to Jordan in July of the same year and it was at this period he started hearing from friends that Anwar Raslan wanted to defect. Raslan did not defect, however, until December 2012, and the witness confirmed that he did not know why the “accused” Raslan had delayed his defection.
The witness then assured the judges the first time he and Raslan had met was in Jordan after Raslan arrived there. He had had no contact prior to that date with the accused and there had been no earlier relationship between them despite the “accused’s” claims. It was only when he heard from a mutual friend of theirs that the accused wanted to defect. The witness admitted having helped many detainees, including the same mutual friend, who apparently became a friend of the accused later on.
It is important to note the “accused’s” defense statement on this point, which was the reason for calling the former pilot to testify before the court. The accused claimed the pilot officer visited him in Berlin two years earlier and told him that he and another officer had first contacted the two people who had helped him quit Syria on his trip to Jordan when he defected, which the witness denied vigorously.
When the “accused” arrived in Jordan, Jordanian intelligence interrogated him as part of their routine work with any defector to ascertain his identity. The witness then joined him and drove him to Amman to ensure he and his family would not be obliged to remain in the refugee camp.
On their way in the car, the “accused” told the witness he wanted to defect earlier but his attempt failed. He added he was not satisfied with what the regime was doing and had been subjected to considerable pressure, especially from Tawfiq Younes, president of Branch 251, who put him under surveillance even at his home and monitored by intelligence agents.
The judges asked the witness about the difference since the war broke out and the source of his knowledge. He replied he had worked with the army since 1983 and came from a family where all belonged to the military, knowing that Syria was a dictatorial country and therefore all the entities were dedicated to serving the dictator. The security apparatus in which Raslan worked should not have arrested citizens but all state agencies worked on the same principle, namely the protection of the regime which he knew by virtue of his previous work, and there was no need for the accused to explain it to him.
The witness confirmed that torture in Syria occurred even before 2011, but it was aimed at extracting the truth from the accused. After 2011, torture was used only for revenge. It was rare for someone to be killed under torture before 2011, h but after 2011, up to it was possible that 80% of detainees may have been killed under torture.
This information was among the topics the witness and the “accused” spoke about together. Raslan also told him about his poor psychological condition caused by his inability to make a real change given the abuses that were taking place.
He told the judges he met the “accused” three times – the first when he drove him in his car from the Jordanian border and the second twenty days after the accused’s arrival in Jordan, when Jordanian intelligence asked him to help them establish a better route for fugitives from Syria due to the increase in killings and liquidations at military points and checkpoints.
Up to 40 or 50 Syrian fugitives were being killed every day before a plan was set up and, since the “accused” had a military background and knew exactly where the military checkpoints were, they took an empty desert road to avoid them. So Raslan was asked to chart a route from Syria to Jordan which he did and thanks to his assistance, the number of victims was significantly reduced. 280 people had been killed in the week preceding their request to Raslan to determine a route for the fugitives so it proved an important assistance.
As for the third time, the witness saw the “accused”, without specifying the exact moment, who appeared very afraid and was disguised. The witness asked him about the reason for his behavior and he replied that he was afraid they would assassinate him.
The witness said the “accused” carried important documents with him from Syria, but he did not ask him about them and did not want to know anything about their contents. The “accused” took them with him to their meeting with the Jordanian intelligence to determine a better route for the displaced because he did not know the reason for his meeting with them at first. But when the witness told him about the reason for the meeting, the accused left the documents in the car. The witness insisted he did not want to know their contents, as he told the judges.
Whether he helped the opposition with this information, the witness said he did not know anything about it because he was not part of them and did not work with them personally and did not communicate with the “accused” while working with the opposition. He added that a Jordanian intelligence officer told him in January 2013 that Raslan had provided them important information but he didn’t ask about it because he wasn’t interested.
The “defense lawyers of the accused demanded the witness about the status of Sunnis and Alawites in the Assad regime and who had the upper hand among them. He replied that even if the accused was an Alawite, he was not allowed to follow an alternative trend.
Sectarianism was present in the intelligence services but the essence of the police system, as he said, had nothing to do with religions, meaning that if a person was an opponent, it did not matter if he were Alawite, Sunni or Christian because he would be crushed for violating the system. However, on the level of the security services, the Alawites had more power and strength.
At the end of the session, the defense submitted a request to summon a new witness from France, whose testimony relates to witness Amer Matar, who had previously attended the court.
After that, the panel of judges submitted a legal notice from them to the “accused” regarding the increase in the number of deaths under torture during the period in which he was the head of the investigation department of Al-Khatib branch, and this information came based on the testimonies of previous witnesses.
The Commission then rejected some of the defense’s requests to call some witnesses outside the EU, because, as they explained the refusal, it would not be easy to proceed with their summons, which would take a very long time, and it was not certain that they would provide an important addition to the crimes before them. It should be noted that the defense has made and continues to make numerous requests to call witnesses on behalf of the accused or to re-establish testimony from witnesses or civil plaintiffs.