Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer
A report on 7 Nov 2021 deals with a witness against the “accused” Answar Raslan at his hearing before the Koblenz Court.
The witness’s lawyer asked the panel of judges to keep his client’s identity unknown because of the latter’s fear for his brother who worked in the human rights field who was well known and might still be detained by the regime in Syria. Therefore, disclosing his identity would expose the brother to a great danger which the court accepted.
The witness began by thanking the German Republic and the German people for their assistance in confronting the thugs in Syria. He then thanked the court which allowed him to attend seven months after submitting his request to appear before them as a witness. After this introduction, he explained to the court how he was arrested by Division Forty and his experience in the al-Khatib branch.
The witness said he and his partner were arrested from a shop they owned on 04 September 2012 when about twenty security agents entered the shop and took both of them to the Division Forty section. The witness and his partner were severely beaten while they were being transferred to the department and once again when they reached it adding electric shocks. He was also struck on his kidneys which caused him to bleed when he urinated. His partner, who began to suffocate, was taken to Harasta Military Hospital on the same day because of his poor health due to being tortured.
In the hospital, they were placed on the seventh floor where it was strictly forbidden to use their names and only numbers were allowed. The witness could hear the sounds of torture in the hospital and once stumbled upon a corpse on his way to the toilet.
Two days later, one of the officers told him he would be released which the witness could hardly believe especially after the interrogation that took place in Division Forty with an officer impersonating as an FSA officer and claiming he had defected but he was in fact still working with State Security and lied to him when he told him he would soon be leaving the division.
He was then taken to the al-Khatib branch, blindfolded and exposed, like others, to the “welcoming party,” which he did not talk about much because, as he said, “it is well known and in this branch they are known for their hatred of the Syrian people and the violence they practice.”
He was then placed in a collective cell explaining there were approximately 200 detainees all of whom smelled very bad as a result of overcrowding, lack of air and poor sanitary conditions.
He requested medicine for his kidneys but was given nothing. He spoke about hearing sounds of torture and the catastrophic health conditions of some detainees as a result of torture as well as noting some died too but he had not personally seen bodies in al-Khatib branch.
He did mention, however, a son and his father detained there who were tortured in front of each other where the effects of torture were clearly visible on both of them. There was also an 85-year-old detainee who was arrested on behalf of his son who was wanted by security. He could hear the sounds of women being tortured which was even more severe for them than male detainees.
Two days later, he was taken to an interrogation session in which he was asked about a previous arrest in 2011 in Branch 227 where the interrogator told him at the time:
“You will not repent? Then God will bless you personally!!”
One of the charges brought against him was “forming a gang to kidnap security personnel.” It was followed by beatings and torture which began by using the falaqa method on his feet. The interrogator then asked the officer to take the witness down to “Abu Ghad”, a well-known jailer responsible for torture, insults and spitting on detainees. This lasted for about four hours during which he was blindfolded and handcuffed to his back then brought back to the cell.
He was interrogated a week later when they began giving other names but the witness refused to confess anything to them or give them any name.
The witness was interrogated nearly four times in the al-Khatib branch and was severely tortured because he refused to confess anything. On one occasion when he was so exhausted by such severe periods of torture he told the interrogator:
“Either give me a blank piece of paper to sign or put a bullet in my head and kill me!”
The interrogator replied:
« Oh, traitor, I’d put a bullet to a dog’s head but I won’t put it to your head because you are a traitor! »
The witness told the judges it was all because he was asking for freedom.
The witness left the Branch on 26 June 2012 after his family paid a bribe to an intermediary. Two weeks after leaving Al-Khatib branch, he went to Al-Khatib branch to recover his car there. He entered the head of the investigation department’s office where the accused Anwar Raslan was there at the time and who asked him if there was anyone else in his file. He replied his partner was present in the file so Raslan directed him to another office.
After they left the branch, the witness said he had recognised the voice from a previous investigation when he had been blindfolded and was told the person was the head of the investigation department.
The judges wanted to know if Raslan was present during the interrogation and if he was the interrogator or not. The witness replied he was present during his third interrogation with him but he did not interrogate him as he was interrogating another detainee indicating that the witness was actually tortured in the presence of the accused.
This sentence aroused confusion on the part of the defense, after they presented a document to the witness and asked him to check it. It was a summary of the witness’s testimony documented by the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research with the lawyer Anwar al-Bunni in a video interview. In the document it was stated the witness had said at the time that Raslan personally threatened him and ordered a jailer to take the witness and apply his “ghost” (victims are hung for days by their wrists) which the witness denied in court. He said he might have made a mistake with the translation as Raslan did not threaten him personally and he was not the investigator who had given those orders. However, he was present in the same interrogation room while the witness was being tortured by others, meaning the accused witnessed the witness’s torture.
The defense found the matter problematic because what the witness said in court differed from what the Syrian Center documented in his statements. To clarify this point, Mr. Anwar al-Bunni was personally contacted and asked and explained the witness’s testimony was recorded as a video interview and was still available if requested by the panel of judges.
When the defense wanted to know why he came to the court so late, the witness replied he had an appointment set for 28 June 2021 with the German criminal police to take his statement which was later cancelled. He did not know why so he could not answer why he was late in attending the court. So his statement was taken by a lawyer who had been appointed to him and not by the Federal Criminal Police which explained his statements from the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research and none by the police. The court also did not clarify this point during the session either.