Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer
A report from Koblenz Court on 14 October 2021 deals with a former administrative employee in the Branch 285 Intelligence service who considers Raslan’s transfer to Branch 285 was not a punishment.
The witness who had worked for the intelligence services for 29 years as an administrative employee began by describing how he volunteered for the Intelligence Service in 1983, and after undergoing a nine-month training course, was transferred to the General Intelligence Department Branch 285. A year or two later, the accused Raslan joined the same branch as a first lieutenant.
The witness assumed administrative duties in all sections of the branch until he ended up as secretary to the head of Branch 285, and remained so for eight months before his defection in late December 2012.
The witness, who was working in State Security Branch 285, refutes Anwar Raslan’s allegations he was transferred to Branch 285 as a punishment for aiding detainees: he returned to his normal work as head of the investigation department and had an office and a car.
The witness told the judges Raslan was transferred after some time to the Al Khatib Branch 251 but was later returned to Branch 285. He did not know whether his return to Branch 285 was based on what the accused had mentioned as a punishment or not, but when he returned to Branch 285 he did so as Head of the Investigation Branch. He had an official office and car where he carried out investigations and signed the statements and memorandum of the investigation committee. In that case his transfer did not seem like a punishment.
He added that transferring between branches was common especially after 2011 due to the pressure of work and the situation in Syria and transfers were at heads of branches levels and not just heads of departments.
When the judges enquired if suspicion of loyalty was the reason for the transfer, the witness replied if the system suspected someone, it would immediately refer him to investigative measures or to a disciplinary board and within days he might be dismissed. Such cases occurred and he had even been a witness to some. Some were even imprisoned but as the situation had become very difficult during the first period of the revolution they weren’t.
The judges specifically asked him about the condition of the accused, Raslan, and his transfer due to doubts about his loyalty. He replied all depended on the crime he committed. If he had cooperated with certain groups, he might be imprisoned or obliged to stop working although this only happened among the officers. However, it was worth noting the accused had claimed in his defense statement his transfer to Branch 285 was a punishment because of his assistance to the detainees and his loyalty was in doubt.
The witness was asked about similar events that took place after 2011. He described how the head of Intelligence Branch 285, Major General Bashir Najjar, and the former head of the Investigation Department in the same branch, Brigadier General Aziz Abbas, were referred for investigation and imprisoned in Adra Central Prison. The general died inside the prison while Brigadier General P.S.C. Abbas remained in prison and was released from service despite his strong loyalty to the regime. This procedure took place at the head of the intelligence branch level. Raslan, however, returned to his normal work as head of the investigation department and had an office and a car, the witness noted.
Raslan’s jobs, as head of the investigation department, meant he was authorised to offer suggestions and the proposals would go to the head of the General Intelligence Branch who would make his observations. Then it would be submitted to the director of the administration, Ali Mamlouk, or Deeb Zaitoun, who followed him when Mamlouk moved to the National Security Office, and held the position of director.
During this session, two memorandum signed by an investigation committee formed after 2011 in the General Intelligence Administration Branch 285 were consulted. They consisted of the accused and his signature under his name, two other majors and a lieutenant who worked for the investigators in the same branch, as well as the name and signature of the branch chief Ahmed Deeb, which were presented below the notes with the words “agree” or “disagree” by Major General Deeb Zaitoun, director of the administration.
One of the two briefing notes displayed in the courtroom included a proposal from the signing committee, including the accused, Raslan, to confiscate the money of one of the detainees for an amount of 2,000 euros to be given as a reward to Branch 285 members.
As for the second, the detainee concerned was considered a convict and proposals were submitted for his punishment and approved by the Department Director. The two notes were dated 24 and 25 September 2012, during the period when the accused Raslan claimed he was supposedly dismissed from work.
Regarding the relationship between the Al-Khatib Branch 251 and the General Intelligence Branch 285, the witness said they worked together at investigations level and one of them could quite possibly ask the other to send a detainee to complete an investigation. As with regard to the influence of the two branches, the Al-Khatib branch enjoyed greater strength because of its division subordinate to it, namely the Forty or Forty Division. It was also called the Patrols Department and was led by Hafez Makhlouf, Bashar al-Assad’s cousin, and had a major role during the early years of the revolution.
The witness was unable to determine the number of detainees in Branch 285 after 2011 although he conceded the number was very important, especially on Fridays. It resulted in an increase in the percentage of administrative work to the extent the witness was personally forced to sleep three days a week inside the branch.
As for the accused’s right to release someone himself while noting the question was based on the fact that the accused claimed he had helped many by releasing them, the witness replied that every release request was subject to the same procedures seen in the notes mentioned earlier and therefore he would not have been able to release anyone without the Department manager’s consent on the issue.
When describing the accused’s personality, the witness remarked he was a good person and was not arrogant towards the elements and greeted everyone. After 2011, when Raslan first moved to Branch 251 their relationship was completely cut off and when he returned to Branch 285, his office was at quite a distance from the witness’s office so he did not know how he dealt with the officers. As for the prisoners, he had no idea at all as he had never seen his treatment with the prisoners.
The witness confirmed that the accused was able to hear sounds of torture as all of their offices were above the basement where the detainees’ cells were. Everyone was able to hear the sounds of screaming. The witness’s office was above the western prison while the accused’s office was above the southern prison.