Higher Regional Court – Frankfurt, Germany
Trial Monitoring Summary #56
Hearing Date: October 5, 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 56th trial monitoring report details day 94 of the trial of Alaa M. in Frankfurt, Germany. This trial day was dedicated to questioning a new witness, P25. As a former colleague of M., he was asked to provide details about the time at the Military Hospital in Homs, the mistreatment of patients, M.’s character and any other information he was able to recollect. The brief answers and the lack of details provoked the Presiding Judge to inquire about his family in Syria, due to previous experiences with witness intimidation. It remained unclear whether the witness was personally threatened. Nonetheless, P25 did not provide details and except for some, he was unable to recall several names. He detailed incidents related to the mistreatment of patients but explained that most of it was hearsay. He did not confirm having seen M. mistreating patients except for verbal insults.
Day 94 – October 5, 2023
On this trial day, a new witness appeared in court. P25 is a former colleague of M. and explained that he underwent the obligatory specialist medical training in Homs in the Military Hospital. According to the witness, he went to Homs in February 2011 and worked in the hospital for approximately one year. P25 testified that he met M. regularly within this year. Upon questioning, he recalled leaving the Military Hospital in Homs because “the situation became very bad”. The Judges asked several questions regarding details which the witness either avoided or countered with clarifying questions from his side. Presiding Judge Koller interrupted and asked if P25 still had family in Syria which the witness confirmed. Judge Koller indicated that several witnesses had received threats by the Syrian regime but assured P25 that “so far no one has been harmed.” Judge Koller further explained that although the German authorities were unable to provide protection outside of Germany, the Court must find out the truth about what happened and asked the witness to provide details about what he recalled. The Judge did not inquire further about whether the witness had personally received threats and continued with the questioning. Throughout the session, the witness gave very brief answers, and was not able to recollect details and names. Except for Osama and Sho’ayb An-Nuqqari as well as Ali Al-Hasan whom he mentioned several times. He further recalled two other colleagues’ names from whom he received information at the time. One of them, P15, appeared in Court in previous sessions. He explained several times that everything took place a long time ago and asked if the Judges could provide him with names to help with his memory. When the Judges mentioned P12 and P18, the witness confirmed knowing them. The witness nonetheless gave very few details and only recalled information when asked directly about certain incidents.
The witness testified that he heard some of the stories about M. from two colleagues in the hospital. When asked what he witnessed himself in regard to the mistreatment of patients, he said he could only describe one event. He recalled that a patient was thrown to the floor in the ER. However, throughout the session, he spoke about at least five different situations which he did not mention in prior statements. Apparently, he did not characterize these events as mistreatment. In one of the described incidents, according to P25, a person in the hospital wanted to do stitches without anesthesia, but he did not recall whom. Upon questioning, he testified that it was not M. He further remembered that some patients had burning scars from cigarettes. He also recalled that another patient was brought to the hospital healthy but died there. The Judges wanted to know if he knew the cause of death which he denied. Upon questioning what could have caused the death, P25 explained that he heard that an injection with potassium was administered in a case. Therefore, he assumed this may have been the cause of death in the case he heard about. Yet, P25 could not remember who administered the injection.
The Judges were further interested in anything he knew about M. in particular. P25 heard about the story that M. allegedly burned the genitals of a patient. He recalled that two of his colleagues, including P15, independently informed him about it. When asked by the Judges, P25 could not give details about when, where, or any other information related to the incident. When the Judges wanted to know if he knew about other events related to M., the witness appeared insecure and asked if he had to answer this question [note: the witness was not represented by an attorney.] The Judge informed him that generally he is obliged to answer and must answer truthfully except when he would be incriminating himself. P25 then explained that there are many reports on the internet. The Judges asked if he had all of his information from online reports which the witness denied. He explained that he knew the details “from people”. Nonetheless, P25 referred to online reports several times but assured that what he testified was what was circulated in the hospital. The Judges appreciated that he differentiated between these two sources. Upon further questioning how he knew about the events, P25 continued to reply briefly and without providing details.
The Judges turned to the premises and the conditions during his time in Homs. P25 was asked to describe the conditions and space for detainees in the enclosed prison. P25 recounted that they had space, but he could not say anything about the conditions. When asked who was responsible for the prison, he replied that he did not know. The Judges directly asked P25 if he knew who Abu Hasan was. After a moment to think, the witness responded that he did not know the person. Upon questioning, he said that some doctors were sent to external missions, but he did not see M. being one of them. P25 did not confirm that M. was pro-regime, he described that M. “was against those who demonstrated, but he was a victim of the regime as well which aimed at spreading hatred among the people.” P25 further testified that he was questioned by the intelligence and ordered to see the senior doctor after he had spoken out against the treatment of the patients. Overall, he did not witness M. mistreating anyone except for some verbal insults.
The Judges wanted to know more about M.’s character. P25 explained that they were not in the same department or group of doctors, but he worked alongside M. every 2-3 days. Yet, despite this frequent contact, P25 could barely give information on M.'s character, appearance, or behavior. Confronted with an array of three photographs, he identified Osama An-Nuqqari, M., and Ali Al-Hasan. The Court inspected several videos from the file with the witness and he confirmed that the several shown excerpts resembled the Military Hospital in Homs, particularly images of blindfolded and locked-up patients, which was normal at that time.
The Judges thanked the witness and asked him to return for the next session. They informed him that they plan to finish on that day and that all other parties to the proceedings should prepare their questions for this upcoming session.