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Inside the Alaa M. Trial #69: Young Blood

Inside the Alaa M. Trial #69: Young Blood

Higher Regional Court – Frankfurt, Germany

Trial Monitoring Summary #69

Hearing Date: February 20, 2024

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 69th trial monitoring report details day 118 of the trial of Alaa M. in Frankfurt, Germany. On this day, the Judges and parties in the proceedings discussed the possibility of accessing the Accused’s Facebook chat history. Because the Accused said that he did not remember his account password, the Court sought other solutions to retrieve the password and access his account. The Accused suggested that the Court contact Facebook administration to obtain a record of chat history.

After that, the linguistic expert continued reading the translation of a report by the United Nations, during which the Accused got emotional as he said that he was trying to help the Court. The Judges then took consent from the Accused to authorize them to reset his account’s password if he was unable to do it. Finally, the linguistic expert proceeded with reading a new report.


Day 118 – February 20, 2024

Presiding Judge Koller began today's hearing by asking the Accused about a conversation between him and a witness and whether the Accused's wife spoke with that person. M. responded that this person and others were not witnesses. M. further explained that he had conducted research to collect some information and that his former lawyer advised him to include chat history of Facebook and WhatsApp in the defense file. M. added that those conversations were between him and someone and that he sent them to his wife before his arrest. This is why, according to M., the police found the conversations on his wife’s mobile phone. Koller said this is what he meant by conversations with witnesses. M. said that the conversations were between him and some people, one of whom was in Syria, the other in Canada, and the third was his brother. M. mentioned P29’s brother as an example.

Subsequently, Judge Rhode asked whether the Accused had a Facebook account. M. replied that he had deleted his Facebook page but had an account on a different application called Messenger. M. claimed that Messenger, similar to WhatsApp, does not require a password to access. It seemed as if M. was deluding the Judges into believing that the two applications were different. Confronting his claim, Public Prosecutor Schlepp corrected M., explaining that accessing the Messenger application, just as Facebook, requires a password, but one does not have to enter the password when accessing Messenger if the application is linked to Facebook on the mobile phone. Schlepp wondered whether the Accused, in case he did not remember it, attempted to retrieve the password using his email, M. denied. Questioned by Judge Rhode whether he remembered his old email’s password, M. replied that he could provide the Court with the old password, yet M. was not sure whether it was still valid or if he had changed it previously. Nonetheless, M. added, he had another solution: M. believes that Prosecutors or the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) can contact Facebook administration in Germany and obtain chat history from their server. Prosecutor Schlepp pointed out that accessing a user's account does not necessarily mean access to the complete chat history; there is a possibility that the user deleted part of the conversations.

Defense Counsel Al-Agi asked whether the option to contact Facebook administration was on the table. Judge Koller replied that this might require a long time and many formalities because they would have to communicate with the relevant authorities in the United States. Koller concluded that knowing the password might be an easier option but that the Court was interested in knowing whether something had been deleted from chat history. Judge Adlhoch reiterated that one can recover a Facebook account’s password via email. M. intended to provide his old email’s password in court, but the Judges interrupted him and asked him to provide it to them later in private. It was strange and dubious that M. thought of uttering his password publicly. M. said that he closed his Facebook account in 2019 - 2020 and wished he could remember the password because the conversations in fact were in his favor. Prosecutor Schlepp then indicated that she would like to know the email address linked to the Facebook account, along with the password. Defense Counsel Bonn noted that the email address was mentioned in the case file. However, M. explained that he would check whether the email address Bonn referred to, or another one, was the required email address.

After that, a screenshot of a message sent to M. on Facebook by his former colleague was then displayed in court. The colleague called M. a vengeful, criminal doctor and reminded M. that he sent a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Germany informing it about M. The German translation of the message, which remained unanswered by M. - as was evident in the screenshot, was read in court.

Later, the linguistic expert, Ms. Kühn, resumed reading the German translation of a report by the United Nations which was started on trial day 115. While she was reading, Presiding Judge Koller noticed that the Accused was not feeling well and asked him to tell the Judges if he needed a break. The Accused's face turned red and he got emotional saying that he was trying to help the Court as much as he could. M. further said he was certain that the BKA could access the content of his phone and does not fathom why they have not accessed his chat history yet. Koller explained that it would be difficult for the Court if the information was located on a Facebook server in the United States, therefore Koller preferred the password option. It would even be the only option if the United States rejected their request, Koller added. Reassuring M., Koller said that the Court did not want to do injustice to anyone or issue an unjust ruling against him. The reading of the report then continued.

After a short break, the Presiding Judge reminded the Accused to try to recover the password and access his account. Koller then got consent from M. and his Counsel authorizing the Court to establish communication with the provider to request or generate a new password, and to break the privacy of protected data, particularly Facebook and Messenger. Prosecutor Schlepp recalled that M.’s Facebook account was linked to an email address and asked whether M. had a different password-recovery email address. Defense Counsel Bonn responded that the Defense Team will share that email address with the Judges.

After the linguistic expert completed reading the entire report, and upon request by Presiding Judge Koller, she proceeded with reading the German translation of another report titled: “A Report into the credibility of certain evidence with regard to Torture and Execution of Persons Incarcerated by the current Syrian regime.” Approximately seven pages through, Presiding Judge Koller announced that the Court was done with the reading for the day, to be completed at a later date, and then adjourned the session.


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