Syrian secret-police officer sentenced to life in world’s first trial over state torture during the civil war

Syrian women hold pictures of relatives who died before the verdict in front of the court in Koblenz, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.
Syrian women hold pictures of relatives who died before the verdict in front of the court in Koblenz, Germany, on January 13, 2022. AP Photo/Martin Meissner
  • Anwar Raslan was found guilty in a war-crimes trial over the treatment of Syrian prisoners in 2011 and 2012.
  • A German court said he oversaw the murder of 27 people.
  • Prosecutors said he oversaw the “systematic and brutal torture” of thousands of prisoners.

A German court has convicted a Syrian former secret-police officer over the treatment of prisoners in a world-first trial.

Anwar Raslan was convicted of crimes against humanity on Thursday, the Associated Press reported

He was found guilty of overseeing the murder of 27 people, Deutsche Welle reported.

He was given life in prison, the AP and DW both reported.

This trial was the first in the world over state-sponsored torture during Syria’s civil war, Reuters reported.

Prosecutors said Raslan oversaw the “systematic and brutal torture” of more than 4,000 prisoners in the facility — known as Al Khatib, or Branch 251 — in  2011 and 2012, the AP reported. They said dozens of prisoners died.

Those held in the center were often people suspected of protesting against Assad’s government, the AP reported. The state court in the German city of Koblenz concluded that he was in charge of the prison, the AP reported.

In a statement, the court said Raslan “was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, torture, aggravated deprivation of liberty, rape and sexual assault,” DW reported.

His lawyers argued that he never tortured anyone personally, the AP reported.

Judges in the courtroom read out the names of Syrian torture victims who were present, NPR reported. Syrians have tried to hold officials in the country accountable after accusing them of torture and other crimes during the country’s civil war.

Raslan was arrested in 2019 in Germany, where he tried to seek asylum, the AP reported.

The Syrian civil war started in March 2011, and remains ongoing.