Koblenz Trial 06.01.2022: First World Wide Trial on Assad’s State Run Torture System in Syria Accused Anwar Raslan’s Final Statement
Written By Luna Watfa
Translated to English by Diane Lockyer
Luna Watfa reports on the final pleading of the accused Anwar Raslan on 6th January 2022 that he has written in Arabic. It will be read to the public in German as an interpreter will verify with Raslan his intentions in Arabic.
After the defense attorneys for the accused completed their final pleadings at the 6th January 2022 hearing the defense counsel Mr. Booker told the panel of judges the “accused” had written a statement himself but would not read it in person. It had been translated into German, and Mr. Raslan’s translator would read it in the courtroom in German, during which the interpreter would pass it on to the “accused” in Arabic to make sure it was what he had actually written.
In the name of Allah the Merciful
« Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Presidents of the Court:
In my address to the court, I am not only defending myself, but I will also tell the truth.
When the revolution took place in Egypt, Tunisia and other countries, people were anxiously awaiting to know what would happen in those countries, especially those who demonstrated in front of the embassies of these countries in other regions.
In the first demonstration in Old Damascus in front of the Umayyad Mosque, it was clear the authorities would use force to confront the demonstrators, supporters donated to take to the streets and confront the demonstrations, and several clashes took place with hands and knives in more than one place in and around Damascus.
The position of opponents and defectors was clear in the streets, which led to a change in the behavior of security officials and branch heads leading to massive arrests. I was shocked by the severity of the increase in the number of detainees, as if they were tidal waves like a tsunami leading to chaos and fear among the police, security services and the army.
All this happened in parallel with the demonstrations of the residents of the town of “Al Houla”. At first I tried as much as possible to keep the number of prisoners in the al-Khatib branch as low as possible as the prison there was not designed for that purpose. For this reason, I submitted daily reports, and in the case of citizens who did not have any information that they had committed any opposition act, proposals were made for their release. As for those who were subsequently transferred to Branch 285, it depended on Tawfiq Yunis’ decision.
Hafez Makhlouf and his staff exercised extensive influence in Damascus and its suburbs and even override those who were assigned other tasks in other security branches. He took advantage of his great power and influence resulting in a large number of people arrested, tortured, and then taken to al-Khatib while they were wounded.
The name of Lieutenant-Colonel Basil H., who used to receive detainees with beatings and torture, also emerged. This is what was called the “reception party.” Lieutenant-Colonel Basel was the head of the student branch before the revolution and then he became the head of the security department. He had already arrested a large number of students who participated in or sympathized with the demonstrations. On one occasion, I prevented him from beating a student, so he told the head of the branch, who in turn told me that they were all terrorists. That was a clear message to me.
At the beginning of 2011, the head of the branch, Tawfiq Younes, called me and said that people in Houla were demonstrating and their number had reached fifty thousand, accusing them all of treason. I told him the issue needed local reconciliation committees to know the people’s demands. He replied there was no need for any committees, and he repeated: “These are traitors! Go to your office! » All this happened in the presence of the officer Kamal A., who did not utter a word. After thinking about it and analyzing the situation, it became clear to me I was also considered a traitor and here I was convinced I should defect because it was a threat and an obvious question as to my loyalty.
Later, the Damascus cell was established, which included the Republican Guard forces in cooperation with the Fourth Division and the head of the Khatib branch at the time, Brigadier General Tawfiq Younes, Brigadier General Muhammad Khaddour, Brigadier General Issam Zahreddine, Brigadier General Ali Nayouf, and Colonel Ali Muhammad of the Fourth Division. The link with them in the branch was Lieutenant-Colonel Abdel Moneim Al-Naasan.
Over a month and a half, these forces arrested large numbers of citizens in and around Douma, Harasta, Zabadani. The arrests were arbitrary and people were simply arrested from the streets and squares. While showing the daily reports to the head of the branch, I told him twice that the prison did not have the capacity for this number. The third time I told him, he asked me to keep quiet.
The committee met every evening under the supervision of the head of the al-Khatib branch, and Lieutenant-Colonel Abdel Moneim al-Naasan would provide them with the names of areas where there were opponents, and the next day they would bomb those areas based on the information provided. At that time I tried to defect but I could not, but through joint work with the LCCs I was able to help a lot of people.
On 02.05.2011, Brigadier General Muhammad Khaddour came to the branch and then an employee of Ahmed Noah told me over the phone that there was an interrogation of a member of the al-Quwatli family. I went down to the prison basement and was told at that time the head of the branch was the one who had agreed to this, that is, Tawfiq Younes, and he said his interrogation would be led by employees from the Forty department. Al-Quwatli was asked some questions, including his relationship to former Syrian President Shukri al-Quwatli, and we also talked about his family.
After that, Khaddour began interrogating him in a brutal manner. Even former President Shukri al-Quwatli was not spared his insults and insults. I took Khaddour aside and told him that was not correct but he replied that the instructions were unambiguous. I went back to my office after that. Then Ahmed Noah and Ahmed Abdullah came from the Forty section and continued to interrogate him. I called the head of the department who was in Douma and asked him if this was legitimate, and he replied, “Yes, and the interrogation must be conducted and the results sent on later.”
As time passed, there was no longer what was referred to as the position of the head of the investigation department. Investigations were no longer limited to the investigation department. The prison was open in the same way as was the interrogation of anyone so, in other words, access was no longer restricted to the investigation team.
At the beginning of 2011, two officers entered the office and told me Republican Guard representatives had complained about me because I had thwarted their efforts by releasing the detainees. The same day that evening, the head of the branch, Tawfiq Younes, summoned me. Lieutenant-Colonel Abdel Moneim Naasan and Brigadier General Muhammad Khaddour were present at the time. He spoke to me about the situation and then decided to restructure the system. There was no longer a real head of the investigation department which was replaced by seven officers who became responsible for the investigation of the branch, each officer acting as the head of his investigations.
My role then was to examine some of the results within the narrow margins that were available to me as I was trying to help people. Every evening, Abdel Moneim al-Naasan would meet the heads and members of the committee and inform them of the results of the investigations. He would provide them with information with the names of the activists, the locations of the field hospitals and their staff. Then, he would sign the arrest warrants in his name and announce the names and places to be targeted by artillery. Al-Na’asan had a direct wireless connection with them to correct the targets.
Tawfiq Younes took Omar Shanan with him to Al-Zabadani in security operations. Those against whom an arrest warrant was issued were transferred to Al-Khatib branch. The east and west of Damascus witnessed several military and security campaigns. Then the head of the branch instructed us to carry out the tasks of the branch whenever he was on a field mission abroad.
The detainees were divided into two categories: the first were the militants, and the second were from field hospitals, finance, and activists. Al-Nassan took over the investigation of the detainees, accusing them of financing and incitement, and with the help of two officers, they tortured the detainees day and night. Then Al-Nassan submitted the names and arrest warrants to the head of the branch without referring to me.
At the same time, Section Forty was also bringing in detainees. I could hear the sounds of screaming and torture. I called the prison and asked about the nature and reason for the screaming. I was told that Lieutenant-Colonel Muhammad Abdullah was busy interrogating and torturing forty people who had just been arrested.
During this time, the army stormed Houla, I think it was in August 2011. At that time, I received news of artillery shelling, killing and mass targeting. Many people were wounded and killed in just three days. My father also informed me of that a 20 year old relative had been killed as well as my sister’s 10-year-old grandson. I told him I would come to the village, but he asked me not to come because there were armed men in the village.
At the beginning of the New Year 2012, the Forty Department arrested many people from Zabadani at the same time as many were arrested by the Al-Khatib branch resulting in the number of nearly 200 detainees. I was asked to investigate them, pass judgments and report the results over the phone. At the time, I found that more than 170 of the detainees had nothing to do with the opposition, including women, among them 30 were related to criminal charges such as drugs or participation in demonstrations.
I informed the branch chief of the preliminary results of the investigation, and he asked me to write them down and give them to his office manager. Indeed, he agreed to release 170 detainees, arrest 30 others, and transfer them to Branch 285 to complete the investigation. I asked everyone not to hit anyone.
After a day or two, the head of the branch, Tawfiq Younes, summoned me and told me that Hafez Makhlouf called him and told him I was releasing the arrested terrorists. So I brought him their files and showed them all to him until he asked me to stop and he was convinced. He then called Hafez Makhlouf and I waited for him while he explained everything to him.
After Tawfiq Younes hung up, he told me I was in the midst of a storm because Makhlouf was not convinced and would investigate, and I would have to answer if there was any information that anyone who was released was actually involved in something. Then a transfer request was submitted to the Ministry of Interior, and a copy of it was handed to the court, in which was written:
Syrian Arab Republic Branch 251
Request to finish a mission submitted to Mr. Major General
From Colonel Anwar Abbas Raslan, Branch 251 employee, I ask for your approval to terminate my assignment in Branch 251 and to return me again to the Ministry of Interior, if this does not contradict the will of the Department.
When he read my request, he looked at me and said, “Stay in your office and keep checking your notes until this crisis clears. Everything will work out in time.” At that time, I sent my son-in-law to Zabadani, where there were people working with the Free Army, and asked him to help me and my family escape outside Syria.
At this time, the first massacre took place in Houla on May 25, 2012. Men, women and children were massacred and stabbed to death. The residents had recognised some militia members from the neighboring villages, who were Alawites and Shiites.
Two days later, the head of the branch, Tawfiq Younes, called me as he had one of the correspondents of the Russian Agency with an interpreter in the office. The head of the branch asked me to hold a meeting with the Russian Agency. I avoided the meeting at that time on the pretext that I was not present myself and did not know anything about it and none of my relatives contacted me. I was required to say that it was the terrorists who carried out the massacre, and when I insisted on not conducting this interview, the head of the branch, Tawfiq Younes, told me that all my papers were revealed and all had been burned, then he asked me to go to my office.
After a short time, I called Adnan. I told him I wanted to join them, “the Harasta Committee.” The security services chased after him and later learned he had fled to Egypt. He knew my negative attitude towards the way the regime dealt with the demonstrations that were taking place in Harasta since the beginning of the revolution. I helped him by helping release the detainees from there.
At the beginning of 2012, there were no longer many peaceful demonstrations, but rather it had turned into an armed civil war.
I must assure you, Judges, I did not issue a single order to torture, use violence, or mistreat a prisoner. The ill-treatment in al-Khatib was perpetrated by Abd al-Mun’im al-Naasan and officers from the Arbaeen Division; Ahmed Noah and his assistants; as well as the director of the prison and three of his employees. It is without a doubt that the motives were of a sectarian nature. Each of them wanted to identify with the will of two people, Tawfiq Younis and Hafez Makhlouf, who were responsible for everything. I confirm that I have not participated in any arrest campaign for anyone in the demonstrations, or any mission outside Branch 251.
First, on the issue of the dead victims:
1- After the Republican Guard participated in suppressing the demonstrations, they brought a dead person, and called Dr. Ayman N., who took the person to the hospital near Al-Khatib branch. The person died from a haemorrhage after Republican Guard elements hit him on the head.
2- After the Al-Sha’er Bridge incident, the Republican Guard brought a 45-year-old person from Harasta, who was being carried on a stretcher. I noticed his left foot was fractured and I asked him who was responsible for the fracture. He replied it was Colonel Saleh who did it at the hospital checkpoint in retaliation for his relative. The person was taken to the Red Crescent Hospital and died as a result of blood loss. I reported this to the branch chief and he asked me to remain silent.
3- In April 2012, Officer Muhammad Abdullah brought the body of a person who had been shot during the army’s participation in a campaign in the Yabroud area to the al-Khatib branch. He was sent to the Red Crescent Hospital where the body was examined and death confirmed.
4- One morning, Lieutenant-Colonel Youssef Ibrahim brought a person from the Sayeda Zainab area to the Al-Khatib branch yard because his nose and mouth were bleeding. He was taken to the Red Crescent Hospital and died half an hour later. After investigating the matter, I learned that Lieutenant-Colonel Youssef Ibrahim and his assistants arbitrarily beat him in his shop and stole a sum of one and a half million from him. I informed the head of the branch, Tawfiq Younes, and he also asked me to remain silent.
5- Later on during my work, which was limited to examining parts of the results of the investigations, I often heard from prisoners who came to al-Khatib that they had been interrogated by al-Na’asan or other officers from the Forty Section. They worked independently and did not present their results to me which were handed over directly to Younes and Makhlouf, who signed them.
It must be clarified that everything that happened in the branch was due to the large number of detainees, as the branch was over capacity resulting in malnutrition and poor health conditions with the branch doctor, Ayman N. They were torturing them and describing them as terrorists, just like the officers and soldiers, and the reason was sectarian. The prison director and his staff also contributed to ill-treatment with their unconvincing motives. And whether I agreed or not, there was nothing I could do about it.
As I have shown you some data here, the people responsible for each branch were Tawfiq Younes and Hafez Makhlouf. They intended to harm the detainees in order to destroy the opposition, which they considered an enemy of the regime. They were also the ones who carried out the mass arrests with the Republican Guard delegates.
Although the law stipulated it was prohibited to reveal the detainees’ names or operations that require this, I was however informing people of the detainees’ names. When the emergency law was abolished and replaced by the terrorism law, lists of detainees’ names were prepared and sent to the first public prosecutor. Since then, relatives of detainees have been able to review the public prosecutor and submit a request to visit their relatives.
The commission of a crime according to Syrian law requires three elements be available:
* Will and intent to commit the crime.
* The material element, which is the cause of the crime.
* The occurrence of the act, which is murder.
There must be a causal relationship between the will to commit a crime and the success in carrying it out. So if we go back to those who have the power, the responsibility lies with them because they are the ones who issue orders to kill and torture or carry out the orders.
I did not order the killings or torture, quite the contrary, I tried to help, and I had no authority over the officers who carried out these crimes. The violations taking place were caused by other officers, and when the officer, Muhammad Abdullah and other officers, tortured and I heard screaming, I called to inquire about the matter but I was asked to remain silent.
Regarding Hafez Makhlouf, his behavior until 2014 disturbed the leaders of the usual security services, and when the army lost the clashes in Ghouta, Hafez Makhlouf was dismissed because he was the reason for the army’s loss. I got this information from the opposition.
It must be noted members or officers from other branches are not allowed to enter the al-Khatib branch for investigation or for any other reason. This only occurred after Hafez Makhlouf assumed his duties in the State Security Department, where the head of al-Khatib branch was also subjected to this situation.
As for my motives, former prisoners as witnesses came here and confirmed that I helped them and explained to some of them I was not satisfied with the arrests and violations, among them: A.Q., Riad Seif, the Reuter journalist, L.M., RI, K.R, Abdel Nasser Al-Ayed, N.A., Z.T, and Ziad B.
My motives for defection were noble. I gave up everything and left behind me 26 years of work and an important inheritance that no one in m family would ever acquire and all that in exchange so that no one would get hurt. I didn’t want to be the reason for the prisoners’ injury or bloodshed. Seven of my relatives were martyred, two of them in prisons. I also lost my 10-year-old grandson because the regime mercilessly killed everyone who took to the streets, regardless of whether they were young or old.
At the end of Ramadan 2012, an officer brought many detainees from the Zabadani area, all of whom were severely injured. When I looked at their files, I found that they were not wanted and there was no official assignment regarding them. I tried to investigate but there were no official responses to my formal appointment to verify this.
I was a member of this committee like all the others. My name was not written as Head of the Investigation Branch but simply Brigadier General Anwar Raslan. Then I split.
Unfortunately, due to the circumstances, some Syrians were unable to appear as witnesses before the court, including those who were in the branch at the time and worked with me in the al-Khatib branch, including A.S., F.S., K.K.
If they were to attend court, they would have told you how I risked my life, helped people, and tried to ease their suffering. Of course, I could not influence those who belonged to higher ranks than I did, such as Tawfiq Younes or Hafez Makhlouf. It was not natural for me to risk my obvious position. After the outbreak of the revolution, I reached a stage where I no longer had any influence, because I was against two criminals, Younis and Makhlouf, and I was affiliated with the opposition simply because I belonged to an opposition region, as I mentioned.
This is my message to the whole Syrian people. I’m so sorry I couldn’t help you more! I couldn’t stop the killing machine.
From the beginning I had a negative attitude towards the humiliation of this great people, because I belong to this people.
I share their feelings and their suffering just as my family and I are among the victims. I lost two members of my family in Military Security prisons, I lost my ten-year-old grandson with a machine gun bullet that hit his head, and I lost four others who died in gun attacks. When the news of their deaths reached my office it was very painful. It is for that reason I publicized my position even in front of some of the detainees and took a risk and offered what I could offer until I had the opportunity to defect.
I left my job behind me and put all my years of fatigue behind me so that I would not be an instrument of murder and aggression like the others. To this day I hear from northern Syria about the killings of children and women.
I am about to reach the age of sixty and have been detained for three years. Chronic diseases have begun to ravage my body, and alienation and distance from my relatives, grandchildren and children has exhausted me, so all I ask from the court is a fair ruling!
Fairness in the application of the law leaves no room for doubt or interpretation, as it came in the Holy Qur’an, the Almighty saying:
“Whoever kills a person without a soul or for corruption on earth, it is as if he killed both of us.” It is the great truth of God
Many of the detainees I helped in these dangerous times would have been just pictures in Caesar’s file had I not helped them. Whatever the court’s decision, I will accept the ruling of the Supreme Senate, because I believe in German law and justice. »
After the translator finished reciting the defendant’s statement, Judge Kerber directly asked the defendant whether these were in fact his exact words or not and asked him to answer that himself. The defendant, Raslan, replied with his own voice: « Yes. » That was the only word he pronounced personally.
After that, Ms. Kerber informed all the date of the next session would be announced and confirmed well in advance. He added the verdict would be pronounced in German with a simultaneous translation into Arabic publicly available followed by a press conference to be held in the court’s backyard.