Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer
Here is the report on hearing of “accused” Anwar Raslan on September 2nd 2021.
The witness’s lawyer began the session on September 2nd 2021 by explaining the witness requested that his personal information not be mentioned in the courtroom because of the presence of the Syrian regime’s followers and informants in Europe and because members of his family were still in Syria and he feared that they would be subjected to the regime’s oppression if they knew that he testified in court. The panel of judges agreed to the witness’s request and asked his lawyer if he could give them any information about his client. The lawyer replied that he would not mention his client’s name in the courtroom but he could nevertheless say that he was a Syrian artist.
Witness: “Anyone who decides to work with a Syrian intelligence branch is someone who has a problem and who tortures people regardless of whether they have done wrong or not. Torture is something that cannot be justified by anyone.”
The witness then began his testimony by talking about his meetings with the “accused” Anwar Raslan. He said their first meeting was when he was arrested in Al-Khatib branch after two armed men in civilian clothes came to his house on the 8th December 2011 and asked him to follow them for no more than an hour – which proved to be a lie as the witness later explained. They then took him to a security car where four other members were present.
The witness was taken to the Al Khatib branch at the time. At his “reception,” he was dealt harshly by the officer who forced him to strip and do the safety movement – squatting – after which he was taken to a single cell and asked to keep his face against the wall especially when they opened the cell door. He admitted he did not know how long he was in the cell because he had no sense of time. After a short time another person, an English teacher, was brought with his son to the hall across from his cell where he could see the father being tortured with his head knocked against the door of his own cell until he fainted several times.
One of the officers then came and took the witness out, put his blindfold on, and took him to the investigator’s room on the same floor. At that time, he could hear the interrogator’s voice asking him: « Why are you afraid? » and he replied, « Because I am in a frightening place! »
So this person – who, it later became clear to the witness, was the “accused” Raslan – asked him to relax as he was in a place where there was nothing to be frightened about. The witness asked if he could sit down to which the investigator replied he could but as he was blindfolded he had to ask the investigator: “How can I sit down?” and he was told: “Go to the left and three steps away there is a chair, take it and sit down.”
Here the panel of judges asked him if Raslan treated him well. He asked them:
« What does the word ‘good treatment’ mean here? If the intent is in the Syrian regime’s sense of « good » then perhaps it is good because he did not order anyone to beat me, but in the human sense of the word, it is far from being “good treatment.”
Raslan’s interrogation included blaming him for what he did. There was no physical violence but only psychological intimidation as the witness could sense the presence of two other people other than the investigator. He admitted he was afraid all the time that one of them might start beating him.
The interrogator then told the witness that the detainees brought into Al Khatib were scum while he was different from them and that he should not have done what he did.
At this point, the judges stopped the witness and asked him what the investigator meant by saying what “he should not have done.” The witness replied that the security forces in Syria were ready to arrest anyone because they simply entered the bathroom, for example, in the sense that they do not need a real justification to arrest anyone. In his personal case, the justification was his participation in a funeral council that turned into a demonstration.
The investigator’s goal at that moment was to understand why the witness opposed the regime in Syria and why he was participating in demonstrations. The investigator wanted to prove to him all along that the protesters were simply scum, uneducated and poor and, consequently, they were ready to sabotage the country for a handful of money. He even brought in one of the detainees and told the witness that the person participated in the demonstration for a kilo of bananas. To the point, he even tried to convince the witness that the demonstrations were a foreign conspiracy against Syria.
The interrogation lasted about two hours.
During the three days that the witness spent in al-Khatib branch, he was subjected to a second interrogation with another violent interrogator who did not beat him but rather abused him verbally and psychologically. The witness was blindfolded. In the second investigation, the witness was asked to write something equivalent to an apology while they made him understand that writing this paper was a condition for his release.
The witness confirmed that his interrogation was not really like an authentic interrogation but rather more like a punishment because of his participation in the demonstrations. It was as if they wanted to prove to him the kind of punishments they were capable of applying such as including having him hear the sounds of torture in front of his cell at different times. When they brought in his father who had come to take him home on his last day there, the witness was convinced his idea was correct. It seemed like a punishment in a school, for example, or a desire to intimidate the whole family and use them as a means of pressure on the detainee or perhaps put pressure on the whole family.
After his second interrogation ended and his father brought into the office of the Branch’s head, Tawfiq Younes, the witness was taken to Raslan’s office. There Raslan asked him to remove his blindfold and introduced himself and took him to Tawfiq Younes’ office too. The latter told the witness in front of his father that he hoped it would be the last time he came to Al Khatib and he left Branch 251 with his father.
Many years after his arrest, the defendant’s assistant contacted the witness – the same person who had arrested the witness from his home – and told him that the accused, Raslan, was in Germany and wanted to speak with him. The witness’s statements, however, were not presented in the courtroom.
The witness was asked why he agreed to communicate with the accused and he replied he was curious to know more about the progress of arrests in Syria and wanted to make sure whether the accused had actually defected or not. However, once in Berlin he was unable to meet him as Anwar Raslan was arrested by the Federal Criminal Police before their planned meeting.
During the investigation, the witness confirmed that the accused Raslan was able to hear the sounds of torture from his office all the time, and that he knew what was going on because the witness himself could hear everything while he was in Raslan’s office.
He also added that his treatment was very special because of his special situation but he knew perfectly well what happened to other detainees inside the Syrian intelligence branches and that many of his friends were arrested and beaten from the first moment of their arrest which was systematic in Syria. The witness added that the intelligence services had no respect for anyone. He saw an English language teacher being beaten very violently, even an ordinary teacher but given his special situation he was well dealt with. And he added, the word “good” applies only in Syria, as he emphasized it once again:
Moreover, being arrested in Syrian intelligence does not mean it is not free of verbal and psychological violence in the best of cases.
At the end of the session, the witness was asked by the defendant’s defense lawyer what he meant by saying that he knew exactly what intelligence services in Syria meant including even those who worked in it. The witness replied:
“Anyone who decides to work in intelligence services is someone who has a problem and who tortures people regardless of whether they have done wrong or not. Yet he agrees to torture them, although torture is something that cannot be justified by anyone. I agree that the person is doing a very dangerous job and may possibly even get killed doing it but he accepts the results, whatever they are.
Besides, working with intelligence services is to preserve the Syrian regime and has nothing to do with patriotism. Personally, I don’t know how anyone can work in Syrian intelligence services.