A Syrian doctor who allegedly killed and tortured inmates at a government prison, including setting fire to a teenage boy’s genitals, has gone on trial in Germany.
Alaa Mousa, 36, arrived in Germany in 2015 on a visa for skilled workers after working at a military intelligence prison in the Syrian city of Homs from April 2011 until December 2012.
The doctor, who later practised medicine in Germany, allegedly administered a lethal injection to a prisoner who resisted being beaten, in what prosecutors say was to demonstrate his ‘absolute power’ over the prisoners.
In one case, Mousa is accused of pouring flammable liquid on a prisoner’s wounds before setting them on fire and kicking him in the face so hard that three of his teeth had to be replaced.
The former prisoner, Ahmad A., who now lives in Austria, will be one of the prosecution’s main witnesses, according to the weekly Der Spiegel.
He also allegedly doused a teenage boy’s genitals in alcohol before setting them alight, and did the same to an adult prisoner.
Alaa Mousa, 36, who allegedly killed and tortured inmates at a government prison, including setting fire to a teenage boy’s genitals, has gone on trial in Germany
On another occasion, Mousa was called to a prison in Homs where an inmate was suffering an epileptic attack. Prosecutors say the accused punched him in the face, hit him with a plastic pipe and kicked him in the head.
The man died a few days later, shortly after taking a tablet given to him by Mousa, though the cause of death is unclear.
Other inmates were kicked and beaten, sometimes with medical tools, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors accuse the doctor of killing one person, torture in 18 cases, causing serious physical and psychological harm to another person, and other crimes including one that led to another death.
Mousa left Syria for Germany in mid-2015, arriving not as a refugee but on a visa for skilled workers.
He worked in several places as an orthopaedic doctor, including in the spa town of Bad Wildungen, before being arrested in June 2020 after Syrian witnesses came forward.
The Syrian doctor arrived in Germany in 2015 on a visa for skilled workers after working at a military intelligence prison in the Syrian city of Homs from April 2011 until December 2012
He worked at a clinic near Kassel in central Germany, where multiple Syrians recognized the doctor from his time in Syria and reported him to German police.
German federal prosecutors say Mousa worked in military hospital 608 in the Syrian city of Homs and military hospital 601 in the capital Damascus, where injured detainees were brought after being arrested for opposing Assad’s regime.
But instead of being treated, many were tortured ‘and not infrequently killed’ in such hospitals as part of Assad’s brutal repression of the opposition, prosecutors allege.
Reading the charge sheet at the start of the trial, public prosecutor Anna Zabeck accused Mousa of torturing detainees ‘within the framework of a widespread and systematic attack on civilians’.
The defendant, who arrived at the court in a blue suit and wearing an FFP2 face mask, has so far denied the charges.
He criticised the Frankfurt court however for not providing Arabic translations of the proceedings for the public.
Rene Bahns, a lawyer for the civil parties in the case, representing victims’ rights, told AFP the examples highlighted ‘the use of sexualised violence’ in the Syrian torture system.
The doctor, who later practised medicine in Germany, allegedly administered a lethal injection to a prisoner who resisted being beaten
The war in Syria has killed close to half a million people since it broke out in 2011, and spurred the largest conflict-induced displacement of a population since World War II.
Germany has taken in some 800,000 Syrian refugees.
The trial at Frankfurt’s higher regional court comes after another German court last week sentenced a former Syrian colonel to life in jail for overseeing the murder of 27 people and the torture of 4,000 others at a Damascus detention centre a decade ago.
That verdict, hailed by victims as ‘historic’, marked the culmination of the first trial globally over state-sponsored torture in Syria.
The proceedings in Germany are made possible by the legal principle of ‘universal jurisdiction’, which allows countries to try people for crimes of exceptional gravity, including war crimes and genocide, even if they were committed in a different country.
Other cases involving the Syrian conflict have also sprung up in France, Norway and Austria. In 2017, Sweden became the first country to convict a former Syrian soldier of a war crime.
‘Over the past decade, a large amount of evidence about atrocities in Syria has been collected, and now… those efforts are starting to bear fruit,’ said Balkees Jarrah of Human Rights Watch.