Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer
Luna Watfa’s report concerns the lawyer Andreas Schulz’s final case on 15 December 2021. He discusses the method of torture known as the German chair beginning with the Nazis who brought the German chair as a method of torture to Syria while others believe the Ministry of State Security of the former GDR made it available to Syrian intelligence services.
On 15 December 2021, the lawyer, Mr. Andreas Schulz came forward to read his final case, which he said was for one of his clients who could be considered one of the lucky ones after ten difficult days. For Mr Schulz, it was surreal compared with other victims who suffered worse than he did. He thought maybe his client was blessed with angels of mercy.
He explained how his Syrian client now realised he was dealing with a cold bureaucracy in Germany although he was better off in Germany as he was certainly no longer at the mercy of a country that did not enjoy rights and law.
The lawyer then spoke about some of the bureaucratic difficulties his Syrian client was faced with in the country. He gave the example of his client’s attempts to register his newborn baby in Germany with the father’s name, as is done in Syria. He was unable to do it in the maternity hospital in Germany because the employee did not understand him and the child was already registered in his mother’s name.
Besides, due to the Corona crisis, it was not easy to quickly complete the name change process. Within two weeks of the newborn’s arrival, the « baby” had to apply for asylum, explain the reasons why it shouldn’t be forcibly deported and because the baby, as Mr. Schulz said, would not be able to write the application himself because of his young age, he had to be assigned a lawyer.
The lawyer and the child’s father, Mr. Schulz’s client, were able to solve the problems and, as Mr Schulz said, offered a dynamic start in life for the baby.
After this introduction, Mr. Schulz declared:
« Now I will get to the point where I am studying the historical context of the German chair, the structure of the work of the Syrian intelligence services and to learn more about the accused’s conviction.” He added it was now known how the German Chair* worked as a tool of torture but wondered where the name came from in Arabic.
To answer this question, Mr. Schulz said:
« The sources are ambiguous because some say the Nazis brought it to Syria, and others believe that the Ministry of State Security of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) made this method of torture available to a large group of users and interested members of the Syrian intelligence services. Both of which are likely to be true! »
To confirm this idea, Mr. Schulz addressed the person known as Dr. George Fisher, when in fact, it turned out he was called Alois Brunner, one of Adolf Eichmann’s most important employees, whose nickname was “The Bloodhound” and was jointly responsible for the murder of 128,500 Jews and was on the “wanted” list.
In fact, Brunner traveled to Syria and soon joined the Syrian intelligence services as a torture specialist. When Hafez al-Assad became defense minister, Colonel Abd al Hamid Al-Sarraj recognised Brunner’s intrinsic value and thought he should be put in touch with the future president.
In 1971, Hafez al-Assad, with Brunner’s help, established a suppression apparatus to ensure the future of the Baath Party and the Alawites that they remain in power. Flaunting his close relationship with Adolf Hitler, Brunner was able to apply for the post of presidential adviser to Hafez al-Assad where he trained intelligence officials and tested torture techniques to be used against al-Assad’s opponents. He began his strategic mission as an adviser to President Hafez al-Assad in the Wadi Barada valley region, an intelligence base specializing in torture.
In return, Brunner was given protection from persecution and provided with a house in Damascus’s diplomatic quarter with a special guard. After a dispute with Hafez al-Assad, the latter removed him from his job as a torture specialist. Brunner’s life ended at the age of 90, in 2001, in one of the torture prisons he had personally help set up himself. It is even rumoured he finished his life in a cell in al-Khatib’s Branch 251.
On the other hand, Mr. Schulz also remarked the German Democratic Republic “GDR” was preparing to support the Baath Party and the Syrian security services in the mid-sixties in the struggle against imperialism and Israel and thus supported Brunner’s work on torture as a tool of power and control.
Following several other examples mentioned by the lawyer, Mr. Schulze sought to clarify the nature of the relationship at that time between the German Democratic Republic, the intelligence services and the Syrian state, especially in the eighties, and the existence of a place considered the equivalent of Branch 251 in East Germany, both of them serving only one purpose: to fight the hostile forces by all means and possibilities, meaning:
“Torture as a national interest!”
At the same time, the designations of the security branches in Syria as 251, or 285 and even Section 40, are nothing but a clear reflection of the Ministry of State Security in the German Democratic Republic design at the time, referring to the accused and his relationship with the German chair.
Mr. Schulz said that the defendant’s work and career became well known, beginning in 1984 and ending in 2012. “As part of his intelligence training and later work in the intelligence services,” Mr. Schulz said, “he breathed the spirit of Brunner and the SS and really began to fill in the ‘legacy’ of his predecessors as head of the department in investigation in Branch 251 since March 2011. It is an indication of the high craftsmanship of a torture specialist like Brunner for the accused Raslan, just as was the structure of the Syrian intelligence allowing him as a Sunni to acquire his place among Alawites in Syrian intelligence.”
Mr. Schulz was thus able to clarify the idea of the “German chair” in a historical context and its direct relationship to the « accused » through his work in intelligence Al Khatib.
Mr. Schulz added: “Today the accused sits on a German chair, ironically, a very comfortable one indeed and not used as a means of torture but with the guarantee of a fair trial whereas the German chair in the al-Khatib branch has only one mission: torture, pain and death!”
Mr. Schulz concluded his final pleading by saying:
“When the Prosecutor General Mr. Klinge quoted in his last pleading from Jean Emery, I involuntarily remembered a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche from “Beyond Good and Evil”:
“If you look into the abyss for a long time, the abyss will also look at you.”
This must be the case for the defendant after more than a hundred days of trial.
“Far from his family and children, lying in prison, before the chaos of all his weak and unpromising defenses, which have not led to any reliable expectation of a “moderate” outcome from this trial, we see a man who knows surely what the abyss looks like.”
But the above quote is still incomplete! Before this, Nietzsche says:
“He who fights monsters wishes to believe he has not become a monster during the process.”
This question must be answered by the accused himself, whether the saying applies to him or not. But there is no doubt that the officials and members of the Assad regime certainly have the requisite qualifications to become so.
The final word is still pending and the accused must use it because the « German » chair of the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz will remain with him for a very long time.
*The reference to the “German chair” refers here to the chair on which the accused sits in the courtroom because it is German-made but also the German chair that is known as a method of torture where prisoners are strapped to the back of a chair and their spine and neck stretched to literally breaking point causing excruciating pain and often leading to paralysis or even death.
“The Syrian regime has not admitted to any torture in its facilities or carried out any investigation. It continues to support the officers who issued the torture orders …and as part of its torture machine the forcibly disappeared persons killed in its detention centers are registered as deceased… often years after their demise.”