Syrian ‘torture’ doctor on trial in Germany allegedly gave lethal injection to show ‘absolute power’
A Syrian doctor who practised medicine in Germany went on trial in Frankfurt on Wednesday on charges of torturing prisoners in his homeland.
Alaa Mousa, 36, arrived in Germany on a skilled migrant visa in 2015 and was certified to work as a doctor in the central city of Kassel until he was arrested in June last year after being recognised and reported by Syrian refugees.
He now faces 18 charges of torturing detainees, in the latest European court case involving members of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
While working at military hospitals in Homs and Damascus in 2011 and 2012, Dr Mousa allegedly inflicted sexualised violence against injured detainees who were arrested for opposing President Assad’s regime.
Instead of treating them, Dr Mousa allegedly tortured and killed many detainees as part of a campaign of repression of the opposition to Assad.
In one instance, Dr Mousa allegedly doused a teenage boy’s genitals in alcohol and set them alight.
'Absolute power' over prisoners
One former prisoner, who now lives in Austria and will reportedly testify, has accused Dr Mousa of pouring flammable liquid on his wounds and setting them on fire before kicking him in the face so hard that three of his teeth were knocked out.
He is also accused of giving a lethal injection to a detainee who was trying to fend off a beating, in what prosecutors say was a demonstration of his “absolute power” over the prisoners.
Dr Mousa, who hid his face in court with a hooded jacket and a facemask, has denied the charges.
The trial at Frankfurt's higher regional court comes a week after another German court sentenced a former Syrian colonel to life in prison for his role in the murder of 27 people and the torture of thousands of others at a Damascus detention facility.
The landmark conviction of Anwar Raslan was the first time a member of the Assad regime has been held responsible for state-sponsored torture.
The conviction of Raslan and charges against Dr Mousa are possible under Germany’s legal principle of “universal jurisdiction”, which allows it to prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, irrespective of where the offences were committed.
Other prosecutions of Syrian regime figures have been brought in France, Norway and Austria. In 2017, Sweden was 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