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Germany charges Syrian doctor with crimes against humanity

 A Syrian doctor has been charged in Germany with crimes against humanity for allegedly torturing people in military hospitals in his homeland and killing one of them, German federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The Federal Prosecutor's Office in Karlsruhe said in a statement that Alaa Mousa, who came to Germany in 2015 and practiced medicine before he was arrested last year, is accused of 18 counts of torturing people in military hospitals in the Syrian cities of Homs and Damascus. The allegations include charges that Mousa tried to make people infertile.

A federal indictment charged him with murder, severe bodily harm, attempted bodily harm and dangerous bodily harm, the statement said.

Prosecutors said after the beginning of the opposition uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2011, protesters were frequently arrested and tortured. Injured civilians who were thought to be members of the opposition were also taken to military hospitals, where they were tortured and sometimes killed.

In February, a German court convicted a former member of Assad's secret police of facilitating the torture of prisoners in a landmark ruling that human rights activists said would set a precedent for other cases in the decade-long conflict.

Eyad Al-Gharib was convicted of accessory to crimes against humanity and sentenced by the Koblenz state court to 4 1/2 years in prison.

It was the first time that a court outside Syria ruled in a case alleging Syrian government officials committed crimes against humanity. German prosecutors invoked the principle of universal jurisdiction for serious crimes to bring the case that involved victims and defendants in Germany.

In the current case, prosecutors accuse the Syrian doctor of having poured alcohol over the genitals of a teenage boy and another man and setting fire to them with a cigarette lighter at military hospital No. 608 in Homs. He is also accused of torturing nine more people in the same hospital in 2011 by kicking and beating them.

The indictment also alleges that Mousa kicked and beat a jailed man who was suffering an epileptic seizure. A few days later, the doctor gave the man a medication and he subsequently died without the exact cause of death ever clearly being identified, German prosecutors said.

The indictment lists other cases of alleged torture at the military hospital in Homs, including hanging people from the ceiling and beating them with a plastic baton, and pouring flammable liquids over the hand of one of them and burning it. Mousa also is accused of kicking another patient's open, infected wound, pouring disinfectant into it and setting it on fire.

In one case in 2012, Mousa allegedly beat and kicked an inmate severely. When the man defended himself by kicking back, Mousa beat him to the ground with the help of a male nurse and shortly after administered a toxic substance that killed the inmate, German prosecutors allege.

In addition to the torture allegations at the military hospital in Homs, Mousa is also accused of abusing inmates at the military hospital Mezzeh No. 601 in Damascus between late 2011 and March 2012.

The general secretary of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights lauded the indictment of Mousa.

“Grave crimes against Syria’s civil society are not only taking place in the detention centers of the intelligence services: Syria’s torture and extermination system is complex and only exists thanks to the support of a wide variety of actors,” Wolfgang Kaleck said in a statement. “With the trial (of Mousa), the role of military hospitals and medical staff in this system could be addressed for the very first time."

Kaleck also noted the trial could also be important in terms of addressing sexual violence.

“Sexual violence is being used as a weapon — systematically and intentionally — against the opposition in Syria. Those affected not only suffer physical and psychological consequences but are also stigmatized and discriminated by society, ” Kaleck said, adding that Mousa's trial "could make them seen and thus also send an important signal to the many survivors who have remained silent until now.”

Zaman al-Wasl records testimonies of former detainees tortured by Mousa, also fellow doctor:
Mazen (a pseudonym), said, “I was arrested in late 2012, on the Syrian-Lebanese border, and was taken to Military Security Branch 261, in Homs, where  I was detained for about 40 days, and was subjected to extreme physical and psychological torture. The prisoners in that branch were treated in imaginably brutal ways, and many died under torture.
“I was moved to a number of other security branches in Damascus, for interrogation, the last of which was Branch 235 of the Syrian Military Intelligence. There, I was put in a small cell that initially held 4 detainees but eventually we reached 14.
“During my period of detention in the Palestine Branch, Mousa was present at the branch. He was infamous with the older detainees, who told me that he was from Al-Hawash, Homs. In the three times that I met him, he looked nothing like the doctor. He was a torturer, a jailer and an executioner devoid of humanity and mercy.
According to the witness, Mousa prescribed drugs arbitrarily without conducting any medical examinations, most of which were incompatible with the patients’ conditions. 
“One detainee, a Palestinian doctor called Noor, had diabetes, and died because of one of Al’s prescriptions, who was apathetic to our please to help him when his condition had worsened. He told us to let him die, which happened four days later.

Khalid Ahmed
 Khalid Ahmed, another detainee, who arrived in the branch in mid-2013, and shortly after was taken for interrogation, but when he was returned, he was passed out. When he regained consciousness, he told us about the torture sessions he had just been through. He said 5 people laid him on a bed and started injecting him with all sorts of drugs all over his body, learning how to use a needle on him.
“Mousa, who was present, might have been training these nurses or jailers to inject needles, or perhaps he was just doing it for his own pleasure and entertainment. Ahmed’s condition continued to deteriorate, losing up to 50 kg in just one month.
“ Mousa was a criminal and a Shabiha member, and held no respect to his profession or the ethics of the job, providing no help whatsoever to the people who needed it and who continued to suffer from torture and disease without release.”
Mazen also revealed that back then, Mousa has worked in drug trafficking in the security branches, embezzling money that is supposedly used on the medicine prescribed to the detainees. 
The witness gave an accurate description of Alaa Mousa, describing him as bigger than average, tall, with a full body and a whitish complexion. “We were not allowed to look directly at the jailers or the doctor, but sometimes we were able to steal glances. I saw him from different angles, and I am sure that it was him that I saw back in the Palestine Branch. I saw his photos spread on websites and social media pages and recently on a TV report.”
Fellow doctor testifies against Mousa
Zaman Al-Wasl has met with the doctor Mohamed Wahbi, an urologist who joined the military hospital in February 2011, and witnessed many inhuman, racist and sectarian practices by the hospital staff, including director Brigadier Ali Assi. Wahbi confirmed the witness’s description of Mousa, saying that it is quite likely that Mousa has committed the crimes he is accused of. “From February 2011 to June 2012, I worked with Mousa, and he may have been assigned to the Palestine branch at the time.”
Mazen, who is residing in Europe, expressed his willingness to testify against Mousa in German courts, and that he can be reached through Zaman al-Wasl, provided that he is contacted directly by a public prosecutor or an attorney or a trusted organization known for its work on this file, as to ensure his safety and the safety of his family.
Mohamed Fajer
A former Syrian detainee has given a new testimony against Germany-based Doctor Alaa 
Al-Mousa, accusing him of torturing and killing his epileptic brother in front of him in a military security branch..
Mohamed Fajer said Mousa, who used to enter security chambers to treat detainees, had tortured his brother to death in the 261th Military security Branch in central Homs province.
The former detainee said that his brother had to take medication for chronic epilepsy, so his condition worsened after two days of arrest. 
On the following morning, when Mousa and his fellow Dr. Shuaib Al-Naqari visited the detainees, he asked for a doctor to see his brother. However, when Al-Mousa saw that he was from Baba Amr, he started slapping and kicking his brother, calling him a terrorist and other obscene names and insults. The next day, his brother was taken away, not to be seen again.
After over a month, Fajr was released and to learned from his father that his brother had died and  that he had to pay 200,000 SYP to one of the shabiha to received his body, which showed signs of torture and holes drilled in his skull.
Fajr, who now lives in Germany, did not see the body but pictures of it that he barely recognized as his brother. He said that many of his friends were detained in the branch suffering daily torture from Mousa. Detainees who were shot in different parts of their bodies, were brought to the hospital where the bullets were removed but the wounds were left open untreated and festering. Mousa hatefully looked at them and told them that, “This is your destiny, this is what you chose.”
Both Mousa and Suhaib Al-Naqri used to visit the branch every morning to torture and kill patients. According to the source, they used to give the patients in critical conditions unknown pills, and after half an hour, they would fall to the floor motionless to be taken to the military hospital’s morgue the next day.
 Syrian opposition says more than 500,000 prisoners are still inside the prisons of the Syrian regime.
About 1.2 million Syrian citizens have been arrested and detained at some point in the regime’s detention centers, including 130,000 individuals who are still detained or forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime, since the revolution erupted in March 2011, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights.
The Detainees Association of Sednaya Prison released last November testimonies of torture survivors of the notorious detention facility.
According to the report, 100% of the detainees had been tortured physically and 97.8% had been tortured psychologically.
Ten years of war in Syria have killed 500,000 people and driven half the pre-war population of 22 million from their homes, including more than 6.7 million as refugees to neighbouring countries. 

(Zaman al-Wasl, AP)

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