Koblenz Trial 01.07.2021: Witness refused to appear before court because of his psychological condition and fear for his family in Syria

Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer

In Al khatib Branch 251: “They tied my penis and gave me a lot of water and prevented me from urinating, I thought I was going to die”

Report on the hearing on 1st July 2021 when the witness did not attend the session as expected but sent a letter expressing his dissatisfaction with the trial of the accused as he considered them to be dissidents and their trial at that time would be a bad sign for the opposition. However, in his statement to the criminal police, he described the means of torture employed in Al-Khatib’s Branch 251.

The witness did not appear as expected to present his testimony on 1st July 2021 but instead sent a letter to the panel of judges confirming his unwillingness to appear as a witness in this case so one of the Federal Police investigators informed the court about the content of his statements. As in most cases, the session was shortened because the investigator was unable to reply to personal questions regarding the details of his testimony.

The Federal Police investigator began with general information about the witness, his arrest in Al-Khatib Branch 251 for several days, another arrest and then a third one in Syria on March 15, 2012. He had been studying in Syria and was completing his studies in France at the time.

The witness was interrogated twice once by the French police and a second time by Federal Police in Germany. During his interrogation, he did not recognize the photo of the accused, Anwar Raslan, among photos similar to the accused shown to all witnesses and prosecutors. He assured them that he did not know the accused personally but only through the media.

He told them that he was not happy knowing that the two accused, Iyad Al-Gharib and Anwar Raslan, had been arrested because, from his point of view, it was a bad sign for the Syrian opposition as he considered them to be dissidents from the regime. He admitted that he knew that they had committed crimes and must be held accountable for them but it came at a bad time according to him. The police then asked if he knew them and he replied that he did not. Then he was asked if he knew anyone else working in the State Security branches and he confirmed that he only knew Abu Al-Ghadd, who was present during his arrest.

The Federal Police investigator said that the witness did not want to attend the trial as mentioned earlier because he was dissatisfied with it and because he had family members in Syria and he feared for their security.

The witness described his arrest in Al-Khatib Branch to the police and about the way he was interrogated while shackled and head covered as usual and how he was beaten during interrogation whenever he gave an answer. When asked about methods of beating, he replied that it was with hands and feet or sticks and sometimes with electric shocks on his neck.

The witness refused to give many details to the German police about one of the two deaths he had previously told the French police about and explicitly asked the German police not to ask him about it again after he explained that he collapsed just when remembering it. They continued to interrogate him. For the criminal police investigator, the reason for the witness’s refusal to talk about the incident in detail was related either to his fear for his family in Syria or because he was still suffering from the psychological effects it had had on him up until then.

As for the second case, he told the French police that someone had been beaten with a rifle on their way to the toilet and had fallen to the ground and was likely dead. When the Federal Police asked him about this incident, it turned out that it did not take place in the Al Khatib Branch but rather in a branch called the Midan Branch by the witness, which according to the Federal Police was the building housing Branches 225 and 285.

The Federal Police investigator’s testimony ended in less than an hour. The panel of judges then began to read the minutes of the witness’s interrogation by the French police on March 17, 2017. The information that was not included in the Federal Police investigator’s testimony follows below otherwise the rest of the testimony is the same:

What are your reasons for fleeing Syria?

After the revolution began, I was arrested three times. After that, the Syrian security threatened me that they would not arrest me again, but would liquidate me at once. I was afraid, so I left Syria.

The demonstrations started in 2011, what happened to you then?

The demonstrations started before that with the onset of the Arab Spring when we held several sit-ins in front of the Libyan embassy ​​and then the Egyptian embassy, ​​and security forces were always present there. When the demonstrations began in Syria, during one of the demonstrations, which lasted for about half an hour, we chanted: “Syria wants freedom.”

After that, two people were killed in Daraa, and this encouraged us to continue with the demonstrations. We demonstrated in front of the Umayyad Mosque and the security attacked us. Then we demonstrated in Douma, where two people were also shot dead by the security forces. After that, the demonstrations spread all over Syria.

My job was to photograph and document the demonstrations.

At the end of March, I participated in a demonstration in the Maidan area and was arrested. I was tortured for two days and subjected to electric shocks. They weren’t sure I was participating so I was released after four days.

Soon, security started looking for certain names and we decided it was necessary to alert people and protect them.

On 14th August 2011, I was arrested once again and they detained me for two months. I was also tortured then with electricity and beaten on my feet.

After my release at the beginning of 2012, the situation was completely different. The Free Syrian Army was active then and I was interested in being with them so I moved to the Zabadani area and documented their work. It was a good period at that time and the people there were free. I also traveled to Homs and Idlib, and then back to Zabadani.

After clashes between the regular army and the FSA, I returned to Damascus, on March 15, 2012 when I was arrested by  Branch Forty. They kept me for two days there when I was severely tortured. After that, I was transferred to Al-Khatib Branch, where I stayed for four days. There were about 150 other detainees in the cell.

In Branch al-Khatib, they tied my penis and then gave me a lot of water and prevented me from urinating, I thought I was going to die. In the end, I pretended I was crazy. They gave me electric shocks and I laughed to convince them I was crazy. They put me in a single cell.

At the end of March they released me, and then I left Syria.