Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer
Here is my report on the civil plaintiff and witness, Mr. Musallam Al-Quwatli, who came to Koblenz on 7th July 2021 from Berlin to give his testimony at the trial of the accused Anwar Raslan, the former head of the investigation department at “Al-Khatib Branch 251.
A very young detainee was raped with a wooden stick while another detainee’s wife and daughters were threatened with the same
Mr. Al-Quwatli began by introducing himself, and then told the story of his arrest, saying:
“I was arrested for the first time on 2May 2011. At that time, the regime had begun to lay siege to the city of Daraa, and since my wife is from Daraa, her people were trapped there with others in very difficult circumstances. My wife had heard of a sit-in that would take place in Arnous Square in Damascus to demand the lifting of the siege on Daraa and allow bread and milk to be brought in to the population. My wife and my two daughters carried banners while I was photographing them for souvenirs of the demonstration.”
“Within three minutes, the security forces arrived with their equipment so my family and I moved away from the sit-in after my daughter was beaten by one of the officers. One of them pointed out to his colleagues that I was filming so they came and arrested me in front of my family and began beating me severely. They first took me with other detainees by bus to the Arbaeen Branch where I was mistreated and the officer accused me of being an agent of Saudi Arabia, Israel and America.”
“Shortly after that, we were transferred to Al-Khatib Branch. I recognised it right away because my family’s house was about 200 meters away from it and I spent all my childhood in the nearby park. The reception started with electric sticks then they searched us. I was then put in a group cell. There were two large windows in this dormitory overlooking the interrogation rooms where we could hear the voices of those being interrogated and tortured.”
“After about four hours, they took me to the interrogation room and when I entered I saw the accused, Anwar Raslan, present. He was a colonel and there was another officer with him named Khader Khaddour, a captain. Their names were on a desk nameplate that I could see because I was not blindfolded at the time. Raslan wanted to know my name, my job, and the reason I was arrested. He also asked me about my relationship with the former President Shukri al-Quwatli so I told him that he was my father’s grandfather.”
“Up until then Raslan treated me kindly until I asked him why I was there and what I was doing in Al Khatib. At once, his features completely changed and he became very angry and denied that it was Al-Khatib. I assured him that I knew very well where I was. He repeatedly denied it was Khatib and called the officers to take me away.”
The witness was then transferred to another cell where he found no less than 17 detainees in an area not exceeding 3 square metres, some of whom had been there for over a year. Mr. Al-Quwatli refused to eat for three days in this cell because of the poor conditions, the poor food and the general unhealthy conditions. The witness explained he suffered from a heart condition and high blood pressure and yet every time he asked the officers to give him medicine, they refused and insulted him instead.
Four days later, a guard seized the witness from behind, handcuffed and blindfolded him and took him to the interrogation room where officers removed his clothes. He was able to distinguish the voices of the two officers, Ruslan and Khaddour, in the room. Captain Khaddour asked him why he was filming the demonstration and accused him of selling the pictures to Al-Jazeera and Lebanon TV. Obviously, Mr. Al-Quwatli denied this accusation.
Captain Khaddour then pulled out his pistol and placed it on the witness’s head and started hitting him with it while shouting that he wanted him to admit that he was selling pictures to Al Jazeera. He then called on the officers to put him on the ground and told him to watch his work and see what was going to happen. They started beating him with electric cables on his back, feet and other parts of his body. When they had finished beating him, Captain Khaddour ordered them to take him back to the cell.
Three days later he was taken to a ward which the witness described as in a very bad condition saying that “even animals could not live in a place like that.” The state of the cell had a devastating effect on the psyche of the witness as he put it.
A few days later, his cell door was opened and he saw three officers followed by Raslan behind them who ordered them to do the necessary. One of the officers entered and took him out of the cell where he could see a device about 70 centimetres long with electrical cables. The witness was then blindfolded and handcuffed with metal handcuffs which was unusual. He felt someone connect the cables to the handcuffs.
The witness said:
“Less than a minute later, I could feel something hit my hands and rise to my head. It was an electric shock. After four or six shocks, they threw a large amount of water at me and then the shocks became much stronger. I admit I do not know who it was – if it was Anwar or someone else.
Then Raslan said:
“You should forget that this is the Al-Khatib branch and forget Hanjib your wife, your daughters and your son, and let them be raped until you decide to confess that you are selling your photos to Al Jazeera. I told him to confess whatever he wanted. When they finally removed the electrical cables from him the witness was able to see his hands were bleeding where the metal handcuffs had been placed.
The witness collapsed in his cell after this series of torture when he heard the voice of someone being tortured. It sounded just like his son’s voice so he was completely convinced that they had brought his family to the Al Khatib branch too which made matters even worse.
Four days later, the witness was given some blank papers and was told to sign his confession and was then transferred to the General Intelligence Administration Branch in Kafr Sousa. There the witness narrated an incident to the judges which he described as appalling:
“When they transferred us from Al-Khatib to Kafr Sousa, there was a young boy not even 15 years old who had been put in the same cell as me in Kafr Sousa. He refused to talk to anyone at first so I tried to calm him down and told him to tell me what had happened to him. Once he felt reassured, he began telling me about the blood on his pants and, in fact, there was a lot of blood all over in front and behind him.
“Uncle, I beg you not to tell anyone. They accused me of breaking Hafez al-Assad’s statue in my city and showed me a photo while I was breaking it. They caught me and then they raped me with a wooden stick.”
“You can’t imagine how sad I was when I heard the boy’s story. I realized what happened to me was nothing in comparison.”
15 days later, the witness was transferred to Adra Central Prison, and after three days, he was brought before the judge who informed him he would grant him innocence and told him to leave the prison. Mr. Al-Quwatli asked him if he was innocent then why had he been tortured and who had taken the right to torture him. The judge replied that he thanked God that they had at least let him out.
The plaintiff Mr. Al-Quwatli concluded his testimony by saying he was currently undergoing psychological treatment because he had constant nightmares that security forces were following him all the time. When he walked down the road he was afraid of any movement or voice behind him. The neurologist told him that the electric shocks affected his brain because he couldn’t see much and had become introverted and was still being treated for this problem.
“I have become a very nervous human being. The regime destroyed my house, my laboratory and my life. I returned home a broken human being. »