Inside the Alaa M. Trial #34: Broken Record
Higher Regional Court – Frankfurt, Germany
Trial Monitoring Summary #34
Hearing Dates: February 20 & 21 & 23, 2023
CAUTION: Some testimony includes descriptions of torture.
Note that this summary is not a verbatim transcript of the trial; it is merely an unofficial summary of the proceedings.
Throughout this summary, [information located in brackets are notes from our trial monitor] and “information placed in quotes are statements made by the witness, judges or counsel.” The names and identifying information of witnesses have been redacted.
SJAC’s 34th trial monitoring report details days 54, 55, and 56 of the trial of Alaa M. in Frankfurt, Germany. After reading out the translation of an article published by Zaman Al Wasl, M. provided statements and repeated past arguments insisting on his innocence. On the next day, P12, a former colleague of M., testified in Court. He provided details about the work at the Military Hospital in Homs and his view on M.’s personality and reputation. The Judges also asked questions to evaluate whether M.’s assumption of why he was falsely accused corresponded to P12’s memories of that person. He could not confirm the assumption. On the third day of this week, the witness explained a few sketches and satellite imagery and commented on videos allegedly showing the hospital and prison yard. Before ending the session, P12's own motives to leave Homs were subject to questioning. The Judges confronted him as his testimony deviated from the information in his asylum interview.
Day 54 – February 20, 2023
Day 54 of the Frankfurt trial was scheduled as a short day and lasted one hour. Presumably, for this reason, many of the representatives were not present. For the Defense Team, Counsel Bonn was present, and Defense Counsel Al-Agi arrived almost halfway through the session.
The Judges started the hearing by asking a linguistic expert to read the translation of an article published by Zaman Al Wasl in English. The article titled, “Germany charges Syrian doctor with crimes against humanity,” was published on August 11, 2021. It concerns the charges against Alaa M. by the German Federal Prosecutor (GBA) and refers to the Koblenz trial for comparison. It further lists testimonies from a fellow doctor, and from Khalid Ahmed, Mohamed Wahbi, and Mohamed Fajer.
While the Judges wanted to read out the article in German to officially add it to the proceedings, M. asked the Judges to give a statement regarding the content. He elaborated that the article was first published in Arabic, and he had noted discrepancies from translation issues in the English version. He went into further detail about why certain statements from the witnesses were not credible, reading out sections of the article and commenting on them. M. reiterated the same arguments he had previously brought up arguing that he was not present at the relevant places or times. Moreover, he provided arguments to reveal the identity of the witness who used a pseudonym in Al-Wasl's article. M. explained to the Court why he believed he knew the true identity and called out the person. He repeated, "I am sure the witnesses were tortured, but I have nothing to do with it."
Lastly, M. alluded to the person who allegedly falsely accused him. M. raised concern about the individual because the person was criminally prosecuted in Syria. To prove this, M. informed the Judges that he possessed a document obtained by his lawyer in Syria that would demonstrate the "criminal energy" of the individual. According to M., the document is signed by a fingerprint confirming that he was guilty of seven counts of robbery. M. concluded that he was unable to obtain the original, but he could provide a copy.
The session ended with the Judges acknowledging M.’s statements. They informed him that the last aspect he raised was considered a new piece of information to the case and stated that his Defense Team should therefore officially request it to be taken as evidence.
Day 55 – February 21, 2023
On this trial day, the Judges resumed the questioning of the witness (P12). P12, M.’s former colleague from the Military Hospital in Homs, was asked for details about M., such as their relationship at the hospital, M.’s other relationships, and his private and professional behavior. The witness was unable to provide much information since he encountered M. on only a few occasions. The Judges were further interested in the competencies attributed to the resident doctors. They asked if doctors were able to freely prescribe and access medication, disinfection, and medical instruments. The witness confirmed and explained the common procedures. P12 was asked about M.'s reputation after the conflict started. P12 recalled that M.’s reputation shifted from generally positive to more negative after M. started positioning himself as pro-government.
Moreover, the Judges wanted to know details about the person who allegedly falsely accused M. They were interested if P12 was able to observe what kind of relationship he maintained with M. P12 recalled a few details but clarified that he was not involved with either of them. The Judges then questioned the witness about the person’s religion and M.’s accusation that he was an extremist. They referred to the fact that M. based his argument that he was falsely accused on a conflict between the two that arose during Ramadan. According to M., he broke a rule and was reprimanded and that this is what eventually led to the accusations. The witness remembered that this colleague was not extremely religious. He further recalled that he was practicing Islam, yet he would have not told a Christian how to behave.
The witness testified about conversations with two other doctors from the hospital after they had left the country. A previous statement provided information about a meeting and conversations regarding the alleged ill-treatment and torture of patients in Homs. However, discrepancies arose between his testimony and the statement for which P12 provided an explanation. He was further asked about a statement regarding the forceful pushing of a patient. This event, which was not part of the indictment, was already mentioned during trial day 53. The witness gave a comprehensive explanation for the discrepancy.
At the end of the session, P12 replied to more questions regarding the abuse of patients in the hospital and whether he remembered who else mistreated them. The Judges also asked about P12’s precise tasks and duties in the Military Prison and how many times he was present on the premise. Lastly, the witness drew sketches of the Military Prison and the setting in which a patient was allegedly violently pushed.
Day 56 – February 23, 2023
On day 56 of the trial, the Judges continued the questioning of the witness, P12. They asked clarifying questions regarding the sketches the witness drew in the previous session and compared them with those he drew during a police questioning. To compare statements, the Judges asked P12 to locate all the buildings on satellite imagery. The witness remembered certain locations, but not all of them. After the Judges finished their questions, M. raised two questions regarding the imagery. He wanted to know whether the witness was able to show where the outpatient clinic was located, which the witness denied. M. then asked where the administrative building was located which the witness demonstrated on the imagery.
Subsequently, the Judges played six short videos and asked the witness to comment on some of the content. They asked if the videos depicted the Military Hospital or Prison in Homs. [The videos shown were sequences from the Al-Jazeera documentary.] Some sections were filmed in secret, allegedly from inside the hospital and depicted tied up and blindfolded patients. Other sequences showed an outside area with military personnel and bodies on the floor. The Judges wanted to know if the witness was able to identify the area as the Military Prison in Homs, which he had visited a few times to treat patients, according to his testimony. P12 recalled some areas and confirmed certain details. While he was unable to say that this was the Military Prison without a doubt, he identified certain areas and confirmed specifics.
The Judges were further interested in when and why P12 left Homs. The witness explained that he transferred to Tishreen Hospital after the situation aggravated. He left with the help of the then-head of the orthopedic and trauma surgery unit. This person later became the commander of the medical services in Tishreen. P12 testified that he left because of the brutal treatment of the patients as well as his “neutral” position. He explained that he was not regarded positively by the government, but neither by friends nor society because he worked in a Military Hospital. When asked by the Judges if there were any other reasons influencing his decision to leave, he denied it. He was then confronted with his asylum interview at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees where he had stated that he left due to threats by the opposition. The witness clarified that he was approached by the opposition and asked to work as a doctor for them, but he refused and wanted to leave the country instead.
Finally, he drew a sketch of the emergency room and explained where the surgery rooms and emergency beds were located. M. also asked questions. Because some of these questions exceeded the mere explanation of the sketch, Presiding Judge Koller interrupted him and informed him to note questions and raise them when the Defense Team’s questioning is conducted. While M. was following the Judge’s orders, it was noticeable that he disagreed with P12 on many points and that he would have liked to raise these points immediately. German law does not allow the Defendant to ask witnesses questions until the Judges, the Prosecution, and the Plaintiffs have finalized their questions.
For more information or to provide feedback, please contact SJAC at [email protected] and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe to SJAC’s newsletter for updates on our work.