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Syrian Intelligence Officers Charged With Crimes Against Humanity

A court in Germany has charged two suspected former Syrian intelligence officers with crimes against humanity.

One of them, Anwar R., is suspected of being involved in the torture of at least 4,000 people in 2011-12. This resulted in the deaths of 58 people. The other suspect, Eyad A, is charged with torture in at least 30 cases.

Key evidence was gathered after a UN exhibition in 2015, which depicted the corpses of torture victims in Syria under President Bashar al-Assad.

The trial of the two men, who were arrested in Berlin and Rhineland-Palatinate state in February, is expected to start in the western city of Koblenz early next year. Neither the suspects nor President Bashar’s government have commented on the case.

German federal prosecutors say the two men had been members of Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID) in the Damascus area.

They allege that Anwar R., who is 56, was a high-ranking officer who led the branch’s investigative department, and that he assigned and directed operations at a prison where detainees were subjected to “systematic and brutal torture”.

Eyad A., 42, is alleged to have worked for Anwar R.’s department. “These charges send an important message to survivors of Assad’s system of torture,” said Wolfgang Kaleck, Secretary General of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). “We will continue working to ensure that the main perpetrators of state torture under Assad are brought to justice – in Germany or elsewhere,” he added.

Key evidence against the two suspects was obtained after the exhibition at the UN headquarters in New York in March 2015. The pictures were taken by “Caesar”, a former member of the Syrian military police who fled the country in 2013. Anwar R. and Eyad A. seem to have sought asylum in Germany after leaving Syria a few years before the migrant influx in 2015.

The GID is Syria’s most powerful civilian intelligence agency and it has been accused of playing a key role in the violent suppression of the peaceful protests against Mr Assad’s rule that erupted in March 2011.