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Inside the Alaa M. Trial #71: The Joker

Inside the Alaa M. Trial #71: The Joker

Higher Regional Court – Frankfurt, Germany

Trial Monitoring Summary #71

Hearing Date: March 19, 21 & 22, 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.

[Note: To date, SJAC has produced two reports of each trial day: (1) a short summary published contemporaneously and (2) a highly detailed, nearly complete report to be published at the conclusion of trial. Due to the unexpected length of the trial, SJAC is no longer in a position to produce the second report. Henceforth, SJAC will produce the first kind of report with some additional details. Certain details will be redacted in order to protect witnesses’ privacy and to preserve the integrity of the trial.]

SJAC’s 71st trial monitoring report details days 120, 121, and 122 of the trial of Alaa M. in Frankfurt, Germany. On the first trial day this week, a new witness appeared before the court. P35, a Syrian cardiologist living in [redacted location], is a friend of Alaa M. The questioning critically revolved around the date when M. arrived in Damascus and the witness claimed to have proof that M. arrived at the end of November 2011, indicating that by that time he had left Homs, contrary to the accusations in the indictment. He showed Facebook messenger chats from the time with another colleague who told him that M. will arrive within a week. But the details of the chat remained unresolved.

Moreover, a document was displayed which depicted a statement signed by the witness. The witness explained in the document that at the alleged time, M. was in Damascus and the witness had never seen him in military clothing or with any military staff. Upon questioning, the witness could not remember when exactly he wrote it, but it was a response to the accusations by the media. It was written in high level German, so the Court doubted that it was solely his writing. Until the end, the witness denied that someone else wrote it or assisted him and insisted that the content represented only his thoughts written down on his initiative. Yet, he admitted that it was possible that M.’s wife to whom he forwarded it, or someone else, made linguistic corrections before he eventually signed it. The Court was not satisfied but postponed the rest of the questioning to the next session.

On the second day, the session began with releasing Defense Counsel Al-Agi from his attorney-client confidentiality so that the Defense Team could disclose that Al-Agi was the one who helped P35 draft the statement that was presented on the previous trial day. Infuriated, the Presiding Judge reprimanded Al-Agi for this imprudent and naive action, reminding him of the previous session when Al-Agi took the witness stand and provided a poor performance that only exposed his shallow level in German law. The witness later admitted that Al-Agi helped him correct the statement and expressed his surprise at the fact that Al-Agi kept silent in the previous session.

After that, P35’s questioning resumed, and he was asked about the places where M. worked. The witness described the Accused as pro-regime, yet not radical, who only insulted the demonstrators. The witness then spoke about one of M.'s former colleagues and described him as an extremist. The Judges questioned P35 why he believed that. Upon questioning, P35 admitted that M. forged his own documents lest he lose a year of his medical training. The witness justified that M. was forced to find a solution at that time.

The third trial day was dedicated to presenting a document concerning M. and online articles in court, and then were translated into German by a linguistic expert. The Presiding Judge updated the parties of the proceedings on a potential witness who indicated he was not willing to testify either in court or via video call.

Day 120 – March 19, 2024

On this trial day, a new witness, [redacted name] [P35] appeared before the Court. P35 is a 37-year-old Syrian cardiologist living in [redacted location]. He is originally from [redacted location] near [redacted location] and studied medicine in [redacted location]. After that he started working in the university clinic in [redacted location]. He left Syria in September 2013 with a visa for [redacted location] where he settled and works in a cardiology clinic as a senior physician. His command of [redacted location] was very good, and he spoke almost exclusively without an interpreter who was provided by the Court.

Upon questioning by the Judges, P35 recalled that he was not affected by the war in Syria. He spent most of the time in Damascus where he experienced bombings, missile attacks, and shootings in the nearby surrounding but only once, a missile hit a building very close to him. He recalled that at the time, one heard about a lot of killings. While he did not witness anything directly, he recalled that the smell of dead bodies was permanent in Damascus. His hometown, however, due to its Christian majority, which was considered pro-regime, was shelled and roads and houses were destroyed.

Upon questioning, he said that he was Christian too, but the Christians did not initiate the unrest. He explained that when the war started, they had to take sides and since the members of the opposition were considered extremists, the Christians turned to the pro-regime side after the shelling of their towns emotionalized the situation. P35 considered himself to be “rather grey, because I did not want to get involved. The Christians had to float with the current and accept what was. I think all of it was wrong. All these dead, also children, was not worth it.”

The Judges were interested in how the war affected the work in the hospital and who the dead and injured were. P35 recounted that the university clinic was not as affected but there were many dead and injured. He explained that the conditions around Damascus deteriorated, and many came to the hospital for security, mainly older people but not those injured by the war.

The Judges asked the witness if he heard or saw anything from the other hospitals. P35 remembered visiting Al-Mazzeh hospital once, but only the residential area where everything was normal. The Judges confronted him with a statement he had given to the police and P35 admitted that patients were mistreated but not by doctors, only by nurses and cleaning staff. He also said that this did not occur in Al-Mazzeh because it is in the center of Damascus, which is why it reflects a certain image, the mistreatment which he heard of occurred in other hospitals.

Interested in how and when P35 and M. met, P35 recounted that they studied together in [redacted location]. He befriended M. because both were Christians and moved in together with two other friends, one economics student and one engineer. He described M. as a cool guy, supportive, full of energy and always active. He further explained that M. was not the most diligent student, but he easily passed all exams although his grades were not excellent. He recalled that M. was from a wealthy family and had a car, a [redacted]. He also recalled that M. smoked [redacted]. The witness further remembered that M. was rejected from the trauma surgery unit at the university clinic because they required the highest grades, so M. started working at the military hospital. After both moved away to start their working lives, the contact decreased.

Upon questioning, the witness remembered that M. lived in Homs in an apartment with his parents and siblings from mid [redacted date] until the end of [redacted date]. Within this period, they had little contact, maybe two phone calls, most likely on Christian festivities, but he had no concrete memories of meeting M. Whether they spoke about the war on the phone, the witness denied and added that this was never a topic.

The Judges wanted to know why M. moved to Damascus. P35 replied that he did not know the reason but speculated that a good friend of M. moved, and M. joined him. P35 further recalled that he was surprised when he heard that M. would move which he learned about from a friend via Facebook messenger. The Judges asked if M. did not contact him for help with getting things organized and finding an apartment. The witness replied that M. was not a person who needed help, two weeks after his arrival, M. was able to show him how things work in Damascus.

***

[25-minutes-break]

***

Upon return from the break, the Judges wanted to know how and from whom the witness had learned about M.’s arrival. P35 recalled that a colleague, also someone they studied with, [redacted name], told him on Facebook messenger. P35 said that he had screenshots from the conversation and would like to show the Court. The Judges discussed how to address this new piece of evidence and asked the witness to show them the chat conversation instead of the screenshots. The witness confirmed, started scrolling through the chat and showed the relevant parts to the Judges and the parties to the proceedings, the interpreter translated the conversation.

Before the interpreter started translating the messages, the witness explained that M. was not addressed by his real name, but by his nickname, [redacted], which meant something like [redacted]. According to the messages, [redacted name] informed P35 that M. would move to Damascus within the next week. The message was sent on November 11, 2011. The Prosecutor asked whether any metadata could be viewed for the individual messages, but this feature was not available as it is today, for instance, on WhatsApp. The witness further admitted that he deleted certain messages because they contained curse words which he feared having to show to M.’s mother. He also deleted parts that were not relevant, however, P35 said that he realized that deleting messages may not have been a good decision and double-checked with [redacted name] who confirmed that he still had the entire conversation and would be willing to provide it to the Court.

The Judges were also interested if P35 still had conversations with the Accused. P35 replied that he was searching for them but could not find anything assuming that they did not exist because M. had deleted his account. He nonetheless gave consent to the Court that the German Federal Police Office (BKA) could read out any remaining messages with M. His consent regarding the entire remaining conversation with M. and the conversation with [redacted name] for the period between August 1, 2011, until the end of 2015 was noted, read, and approved.

When asked further questions about the conversation with [redacted name], the witness recalled that he found the chat conversation after the allegations against M. became public and he wanted to help his friend. He remembered that he started searching for information and found the chat around two years ago. Already in 2019, after the documentary in which the allegations were raised that M. had mistreated patients in Homs in 2012, the witness claimed that he recalled that it could not be true. The Judges could not comprehend why P35 did not forward the information to a lawyer, the prosecution, or the Court if the witness had important information that could help his friend. The witness replied that he was not aware that this “would be a gamechanger.”

The Judges were still confused that the witness did not forward the information. P35 replied that he showed the chat to M.’s parents which is why he deleted the curse words but wanted to wait for the Court to contact him, since he knew he would be called to testify. The Judges read out a chat between M.’s sister and wife which detailed that they suspected the witness not to testify in M.’s favor and asked P35 if he was influenced or expected to testify in such a manner. P35 trembled and for the first time needed the interpreter. He then replied that he was only advised to tell the truth, because the truth would help M. the most. When he was asked if he spoke about this or the testimonies of other witnesses before he appeared, the witness explained that the topic was always discussed among 7-8 other friends and they also spoke about hotel bookings, train tickets and other related issues. The Presiding Judge wanted to know if they also spoke about the content which the witness confirmed regarding general details and asked if they were not allowed to speak. The Judge explained that it will be a question of the evidential weight and added “Allowed yes, clever no,” before issuing a lunch break.

***

[75-minutes-break]

***

Upon return from the lunch break, the witness recalled that he and M. only had sporadic contact after M.’s arrival in Damascus. Asked repeatedly by the Judges, the witness said that he logically put the pieces together that M. must have arrived a week after the message, yet he did not have a memory of it. He also denied remembering having welcomed M. He further repeated that he was surprised by the news of M.’s arrival because he thought his colleague was mocking him. After the first months, they frequently met with a group of friends, until in [redacted date] 2012, they moved in together in a house owned by [redacted name] in [redacted location], the engineer who they studied with in [redacted location]. The witness recalled that he and M. spent most of the time together, when they did not have shifts. P35 further recalled that they mainly spoke about work, the successful surgeries M. conducted, and that M. joined a doctor named [redacted name] [the witness did not know the last name, but when the Judges provided it, he said that this could well be his name] to assist operations in external, private hospitals. However, P35 said that M. did not speak a lot about patients. By the end of [redacted date], the witness recounted, he and M. did not have much contact due to the witness’ own workload and stress. He remembered that M. left Damascus but was unsure where he lived in [redacted date], he only remembered vaguely that M. worked in [redacted location], [redacted location] again, and [redacted location] again.

Judge Rhode then told the witness that he would like to show him a document. [A written document was displayed via the projector. It was written in German, contained the witness's name and address, the date [redacted date], a text body and was signed by the witness.]

The Judge asked what it was. P35 explained that this was his own statement confirming that M. was in Damascus at the time [of the alleged crimes]. Upon questioning, the witness said that he wrote the statement. The Judge responded that he did not believe him, because although his command of [redacted] was good, the statement was written in a different [higher] level. The witness kept silent. Judge Rhode then asked if someone had prepared the text for him. The witness denied and explained that he did research and used google and grammar correction. Rhode pointed out that in the statement, P35 claimed that he was sure that M. was in Tartous. P35 replied that at the time, he must have known it. Rhode further pointed out that P35 testified that he was surprised about M.’s plan to move to Damascus, but the statement said that M. had told him. Rhode added that the date of the statement, which was written when M. was already in pre-trial detention, indicated that P35 already knew about the Facebook messenger chat he mentioned earlier. The witness confirmed that M. was in detention and claimed that it was a response to the media. The Judges asked repeatedly who wrote or helped the witness to write the statement, and he insisted that it was written on his own initiative, without assistance, he wanted to make a comment. But, the witness admitted, it was possible that he sent it to [redacted name] [M.’s wife] and she forwarded it to someone. The Judges then informed the witness that a lawyer called Mr. Sittig had forwarded the document to the Court, the witness confirmed that he had heard this name before.

Upon questioning, the witness said he does not remember why he did not forward the statement to the police or the Court, which invoked a lack of understanding since, according to Presiding Judge Koller, his friend was in detention and accused of very serious crimes. If something like this happened one would remember. The Judges assumed that the witness was also aware of the Facebook chat when the statement was written, but this time, P35 denied firmly. The Presiding Judge informed P35 that this issue remains unresolved, and he will have to return on Thursday. After a short break, the statement was read out in full and a few more questions ensued. They were related to an injury M. had suffered which the witness confirmed having heard of, but he was unable to give many details beyond the fact that M. was [redacted] in the [redacted] by a [redacted]. The Presiding Judge then informed the witness that they will continue the next trial day.

The proceedings were adjourned at 3:37PM.

The next trial day will be on March 21, 2024, at 10AM.

Day 121 – March 21, 2024

At the outset of this trial day, Presiding Judge Koller said that the Defense Team informed him that it wanted to clarify something. Defense Counsel Endres said that the Accused, M., released his Counsel Al-Agi from his attorney-client confidentiality. Endres then recounted that his colleague Al-Agi told him and his colleague Bonn that Al-Agi reflected on P35's testimony following the last hearing and connected it to the statement dated [redacted date] which P35 provided. As a result, Al-Agi recalled that he contacted M.’s wife and uncle regarding P35, and then communicated with P35 who later sent him that statement, which Al-Agi grammatically corrected in German, did not alter anything in its content, and sent it back to P35 to sign.

The Presiding Judge looked angry, verified the professional secrecy and formally added it to the record of the proceedings. Rebuking, Judge Koller then turned to Al-Agi and wondered how Al-Agi sat for hours in the previous session silently without commenting on P35's statement or explaining that he assisted P35 in drafting the statement. Koller concluded that this was either stupidity or impertinence. Koller said he was looking forward to the session in which he would put Al-Agi on the witness stand again to question him about that statement. Recalling Al-Agi’s previous questioning [see for the details, Trial Report #60], Koller reminded Al-Agi of his poor performance at the time, which demonstrated how ignorant of the German procedural system Al-Agi was. Al-Agi denied that Koller’s description was true. During his reprimand, Al-Agi only smiled. The Presiding Judge reproached Al-Agi and said that he would have whined if he were in his place.], Koller reminded Al-Agi of his poor performance at the time, which demonstrated how ignorant of the German procedural system Al-Agi was. Al-Agi denied that Koller’s description was true. During his reprimand, Al-Agi only smiled. The Presiding Judge reproached Al-Agi and said that he would have whined if he were in his place.

After this reprimand, Prosecutor Schlepp asked the Accused for consent allowing the German Criminal Police Office (BKA) to retrieve geodata from his Facebook account so that they could find out from where it was logged into his account, to which M. agreed. The Presiding Judge added M.’s consent to the record of the proceedings.

After that, the witness entered the courtroom and was informed by the Presiding Judge that the instructions read to him in the previous hearing were still in effect. Judge Koller told the witness that the Court had to delay the onset of the hearing because of Al-Agi… [the other Judges interrupted Koller indicating that he should wait and address this matter later]. Koller asked the witness if he had anything to correct or add to his testimony. P35 replied that he actually had something to add, since he remembered that Al-Agi had called him and asked to email the statement to him. After correcting it, Al-Agi sent it back to him to sign. The Judges asked if P35 could send that email to them. P35 agreed and sent it to the Judges during the hearing. The Judges asked if P35 communicated with Al-Agi recently, P35 denied and explained that he was surprised when Al-Agi did not utter anything in that regard. P35 added that he called a lawyer after the last hearing for legal advice, and the lawyer explained to P35 that Al-Agi was apparently bound to remain silent due to professional secrecy.

In the ensuing questioning, the Judges recalled P35 testifying that M. worked in hospitals in Damascus and Tartous and wanted to know if M. worked in other places. P35 replied that M. worked in [redacted locations]. P35 did not remember in which hospital in rural Homs M. worked nor whether it was a civilian or military hospital. P35 however recalled that at the time, M. sent him an invitation to his wedding which P35 could not attend because he was busy in Germany.

Subsequently, P35 explained that after returning to Damascus, M. worked in a civilian hospital, as it was possible for a doctor to switch between civilian and military hospitals to complete the medical training. The Judges wanted to know why M. decided to transfer to a civilian hospital. P35 explained that M. refused to transfer to Harasta hospital because he was afraid of death due to the dangerous situation there. Since the military hospitals were not “liberal” in case a person wanted to leave them, M. sought help from P26's father who was an important figure at the time.

The Judges noted that P35 described M.'s character in the previous session and wanted P35 to describe M.'s physical appearance according to his recollection. P35 recalled that M. was a “chic” person, [P35 described M’s appearance at the time].

The Judges wanted to know M.'s stance on what was going on in Syria. P35 explained that the situation of Al-Assad supporters and opponents was complicated. Christians are considered pro-Assad, as M. was perceived, but M. expressed his position more than P35 did. However, according to P35, M. was not a radical pro-Assad; not a Shabih [the interpreter explained the term to the Judges]. The Judges further inquired about M.’s attitude towards the protesters. P35 said that M. was not satisfied with the protesters' actions such as burning cars and destroying infrastructure, in other words, M. was not for the protesters. P35 added that M., like P35 and everyone else, was under pressure and may have cursed at the demonstrators.

After that, the Judges wanted to know how P35's relationship with M. was in Germany. P35 recounted that he was the one who received M. at the airport in Germany. P35 further recalled that their contact dwindled, as they lived in different cities and only met each other on weekends. In response to the Judges' question, P35 acknowledged that he still has a close relationship with M. and even considers M. his closest friend who meets with P35’s family. P35 then recounted the New Year's Eve celebration that P35, M., and their friends attended in Germany.

The Judges asked if the friendship between P35 and M. was still intact and whether they had a disagreement. P35 did not recall any disagreements or issues between them. He then explained that he did not look at M. throughout the hearing so that the Judges would not think that he was trying to secretly communicate with M. somehow.

***

[15-minutes-break]

***

After the break, the Judges wanted to know what P35 heard about the accusations against M. P35 said that he did not hear anything new in the Al Jazeera report, as M. had already told him - even before the New Year's celebration - about a former colleague called [redacted name] who sent M. hateful messages, threatened to destroy his life, and called him a pro-regime Shabih who needed to be punished. P35 said that M. worked in the trauma department and of course would be dealing with war-related injuries, just like other Christian, Alawite, and Muslim doctors. He added that Sunnis included both good and bad. The Judges noted that the link between the threats by M.'s former colleague and M. being a Christian was a conclusion drawn by P35. The Judges wanted to know whether there was another reason for the threats, such as if M. was hostile towards protesters - as P35 stated in his police questioning- or if it was a disagreement between M. and his former colleague. Since P35 did not have any relevant recollection, the Judges gave him keywords, such as “[redacted]” to see if it would ring a bell. P35 said that M. did not tell him about this but affirmed that many doctors sought help from other doctors (as well as from him personally). Unfortunately, P35 added, from groups with certain religious backgrounds, who worked in regime hospitals and attempted to recruit doctors to work in field hospitals. P35 said he found himself between a rock and a hard place; if he honored his colleagues' request, he would get in trouble with the government, and if he refused, people who asked for his help would hate him.

Since P35 did not hear of a dispute between M. and his former colleague, the Judges wanted to know what P35 thought might be the reason for M. to be accused by his colleague. P35 said that each neighboring region had a certain religion, thus they hated each other. P35 added that he read the colleague's Facebook post that contained extremist accusations against Christians. P35 emphasized that he had Muslim colleagues, and they were nothing like that colleague. P35 wondered how M.'s colleague posted so openly, and P35 often asked himself, “Doesn't he have Christian colleagues? What are his motives? Why only M.?” P35 thought it might be because M. was a “star” and popular. P35 said that he was trying to explain the reason in German, when the interpreter intervened and said he believes that P35 meant “the mentality”. P35 confirmed that he meant that colleague's religious mentality.

Speaking of which, the Judges wanted to know what that colleague wrote and P35 read. P35 replied that he did not remember what was written verbatim, however, what remained in his mind was the negative impression in the content of the post indicating that “Christians will regret it” [due to the different structure of the Arabic sentence from German and English, the interpreter added “it” to the equivalent expression]. When the Judges asked what “it” refers to, P35 replied that it meant their pro-regime stance. The Judges did not view this as extreme. P35 disagreed and explained that “regret” could mean anything, including that they had to die. The Judges did not believe that this was straightforward. P35 said that this was not a nice expression, especially at that time during war. The interpreter intervened again and said that this could mean a threat, to which the Judges replied that this was his mere interpretation. P35 then said that this could mean a threat. The Judges said that it was not in Germany.

The Judges noted that P35 mentioned that the colleague was radical and asked if he had examples. P35 said that he saw a photo of that colleague [redacted]. P35 deemed that surprising and unusual, as P35 did not see his other Muslim colleagues doing that. When he reads that “Christians will regret it” and sees that photo, P35 would conclude that this person would pull the trigger and seize the opportunity if he had the chance, otherwise “Why the [redacted]?”. The Judges recalled that P35 mentioned France in his questioning by the German police. P35 acknowledged that at the time of his interrogation, there were incidents taking place in France and he mentioned this as an example of possible outcome in demonstrations. The Judges noted that P35 associated this with a religious sect during his questioning. P35 denied and said that he only meant that peaceful demonstrators could do harmful things. P35 reiterated and emphasized that there were anti-regime and pro-opposition Muslims who risked their lives to help the injured but did not carry weapons or speak ill about Christians. However, P35 believes that this colleague is from a certain group.

The Judges asked if there were any indications related to M. and his colleague that made P35 suspect that the accusations against M. might be true. P35 acknowledged that he had such thoughts, but he would not invite someone to his house to sit with his wife and children unless he trusted them. P35 added that he does not know what M. did at night, but he would not invite him to his house if he thought that M. aggravated someone's injury or killed another. The Judges clarified that they meant to ask if P35 had heard about indications of the accusations from other people, P35 denied. He added that he discussed the topic with friends at the New Year's celebration but none of them thought that M. would commit such acts. The Judges asked about a person called [redacted name]. P35 replied that this is a doctor he met once or twice at M.'s house in Germany. The Judges asked if P35 knew if that person talked about that person’s life in Damascus. P35 deemed that possible, as they would talk about their memories and funny things. The Judges asked if they talked to that person about things that were not funny, P35 did not remember.

***

[Lunch break]

***

[Defense Counsel Endres and Plaintiff’s Counsel Bahns did not return after the break. Only 4 spectators remained.]

[Note: SJAC usually does not include details that occur before and after sessions or during breaks, as this is not considered part of the official proceedings. However, the following appeared conspicuously and raises questions and doubts about impartiality.]

After the break and while the audience and the parties waited for the hearing to resume, the interpreter, Mr. Issam Khoury, chatted with the witness until the Judges returned to the courtroom. Khoury commented that there was a hijabi woman in the audience [before the break] and asked the witness if he saw her. Surprised, the witness asked: “What is wrong with her?” Khoury replied: “Nothing,” then went on to tell the witness that there were media representatives in the audience and that he should not be afraid of them and should freely state what he had in mind. He then told the witness that “they” want it to be Islamic, and gave the example of Lebanon, saying that Lebanon used to be Christian, but they made it Islamic. He then turned to Jordan and said that its king treats Christians well [at least]. Khoury went on to say that if Assad were to leave Syria, it would become an Islamic state. He then went on to talk about ISIS and the pictures of beheadings he has seen and wondered how someone could commit such an act, “and they tell you that the Quran doesn't say that.” The witness repeatedly told Khoury that not all Muslims are like that.

After the Judges returned and the hearing resumed, Presiding Judge Koller said that Defense Counsel Bonn inquired if P35 may approach M. to greet each other closely. Koller explained that he would prefer that they keep their distance and refrain from talking with one another as long as the content of the Facebook conversation is not shown in court. Koller recalled P35 saying that he did not look at the Accused so that he would not cause suspicion. Koller preferred to keep it that way. He then explained that the witness expressed concern about M.'s former colleague because the witness mentioned his name and feared that someone would leak that information to the outside. Presiding Judge Koller reassured the witness that the audience would not leak information about him. Koller then turned to the audience questioning. One of the spectators identified himself as a representative of the law firm Clifford Chance. Moreover, SJAC's trial monitor confirmed that SJAC would not publish details about the witness. [Note: SJAC does not publish personal information that could lead to disclosing the identity of certain individuals mentioned during hearings - such as the name of the Accused’s former colleague - nor other relevant information that render the witness identifiable.]

After the Judges finished their questions, Presiding Judge Koller announced that it was the Prosecutors’ turn to ask questions. At Prosecutor Schlepp's request, an email sent by M. to P35 was displayed on screen. It included part of a CV showing that the medical training took place in [redacted location and date]. P35 explained that, as he already testified, there is an agreement that allows a doctor to transfer between military hospitals and hospitals of the Ministry of Health in order to complete the medical training. Since the military hospital refused to give M. his papers, M. was unable to prove that he worked there at that time, and had to amend this paragraph, so that a year of his medical training would not be lost, and he would not have to repeat it. Judge Koller asked if P35 meant that one forged the documents to prove that one did a job. P35 confirmed and said that in Syria, one has to find such solutions. He added that M. did this out of despair, because as P35 mentioned earlier, the military hospital does not sympathize with those who decide to quit and simply say: “Bye.”

Prosecutor Schlepp wondered why M. sent this message to P35. The witness replied that M. wanted to know if this formatting would be acceptable in Germany if M. wanted to apply for work there. Judge Koller asked who would sign such forged information. P35 responded that in this case, the head of the trauma department would sign it and then it would be notarized by the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Koller asked why the information was in German instead of Arabic, although the documents would be submitted to the authorities in Syria. P35 replied that this was just an example that M. wanted to show and ask him about it before M. redrafted it in Arabic, because translators in Syria are poor at translating medical terms. P35 added that he does not endorse the content of the document, but it is a solution that M. came up with. Judge Koller reminded the witness that he is a doctor in [redacted location] and noted that this is problematic and could jeopardize the health of patients in Germany. Koller wondered how P35 admitted to such a forgery. P35 justified by pointing out that M. passed the medical specialization exam in Germany. Koller replied that this was still considered forging of the medical experience and operations M. allegedly performed.

Prosecutor Zabeck asked if she understood the following correctly: M. asked P35 for his advice on whether the wording of this document is valid in Germany and P35 approved. Presiding Judge Koller intervened and said that he had to instruct the witness that he has the right to refrain from answering questions that may subject him or a family member to prosecution, in accordance with Section 55 of the German Code of Criminal Procedure. Zabeck repeated her question emphasizing that P35 read a text in which the Accused claimed to have worked in a place in Syria that P35 knows that M. did not, and then P35 told M. that this wording was acceptable in Germany. P35 said that he thinks that what M. sent was an example from a website only to ask P35 about the wording that outlined the description of the hospital, the number of beds, etc., P35 reiterated that the topic of the conversation was not about the listed dates.

Judge Koller asked P35 if he knew the Caesar Files, which P35 confirmed. Koller wanted to know why the Accused concealed and did not mention the name of Al-Mazzeh Military Hospital in his papers. Koller wondered if it was because M. would have trouble finding a job in Germany as a result. P35 denied and explained that M. did not mention the name of the hospital because it did not give him his papers. Koller asked if the Accused asked P35 to sign the papers for him. P35 laughed and said that he is not a department head and does not have a stamp to do that.

Upon Prosecutor Schlepp's request, a screenshot was displayed on screen showing - among others - the German translation of a conversation between M. and P35. The Prosecutor asked if P35 knew someone called Tony طوني or Anton أنطون [redacted name] who sent a message to M. to which M. replied: “It worked,” as shown in the screenshot. P35 denied knowing him. He also denied knowing his phone number [redacted] which was displayed on the screen. M. wanted to clarify the matter, therefore, the Presiding Judge asked P35 to wait outside the courtroom. M. then explained that this was a law firm that he contacted to help P35 register his baby girl in Syria. Judge Rhode asked if this Tony was the same Tony as M.'s lawyer in Syria [referring to the lawyer that Al-Agi contacted and leaked the name of a witness to. For more details, please see Trial Report # 60].

Since the Plaintiff’s Counsel had no questions, the Defense Team started its questioning. Defense Counsel Al-Agi recalled P35 telling the Court that [he] worked at a hospital in Damascus in early [redacted date]. Al-Agi wanted to know if P35 could further narrow down the time and link the start of [his] work there to New Year’s Eve of 2012. P35 said that [he] may have started working in late 2011.

Defense Counsel Bonn noted that the witness was asked about the hospitals where M. worked and the witness mentioned Homs. Bonn asked if P35 knew [redacted name] hospital. P35 replied that this must have been the hospital where M. worked in the Homs governorate [P35 asked for the interpreter’s assist to translate the term “governorate/province محافظة” which the interpreter translated into “Bezirk” - English: ‘District’]. Bonn recalled that P35 enumerated some of M.'s good qualities and wanted to know if he knew anything about M.'s bad character traits. P35 said that M. was a bragger and would sometimes become agitated. Nonetheless, according to P35, it would only take a few minutes for M. to come to his senses. Bonn mentioned the keyword “sadism” and asked P35 to comment on it. P35 denied [that it was one of M.’s character traits] and the interpreter interjected to mistranslate the word as “uses violence,” but P35 corrected him, saying that it rather means “one who relishes torture.” Bonn then asked about a person called [redacted name]. P35 recounted what he knew about him.

Presiding Judge Koller asked if P35 knew where he spent New Year's Eve in different years, listing years preceding and succeeding 2012, which P35 did not remember. Koller asked how P35 remembered the 2011-2012 New Year's Eve in particular. P35 replied that he was able to take a vacation at that time and that is why he remembered. Koller wondered how P35 remembered it spontaneously after Al-Agi asked him about it, although P35 did not mention it when Koller asked if he wanted to correct or add something to his previous testimony. Koller asked if P35 communicated with Al-Agi or M.'s wife after the previous session, P35 denied. After some back and forth with the witness, the Judges concluded that the witness cannot pinpoint the exact time when he started [his] work. Koller asked the witness if he possesses certificates - which are not forged - that demonstrate more precisely when P35 worked in which hospitals, P35 denied.

At the end of the hearing, the Presiding Judge thanked the witness, announced that his questioning was over, and dismissed him.

The proceedings were adjourned at 3:16PM.

The next trial day will be on March 22, 2024, at 10AM.

Day 122 – March 22, 2024

On this day, the sworn interpreter, Mr. Ahmad Farrag [brother of the late interpreter] appeared in court as a linguistic expert. A document that Defense Counsel Al-Agi submitted to the Court on June 5, 2022 detailing M.’s deferrals/postponements to military service was displayed on screen. The linguistic expert translated its content from Arabic to German.

The Accused wanted to clarify something, but Presiding Judge Koller told him that only questions were allowed at the time and that he should postpone his clarification until the end of the hearing.

After that, three articles from Zaman Al-Wasl website [redacted] were displayed and translated from Arabic into German by Mr. Farrag.

After the translation was completed, the linguistic expert was dismissed, and the Accused was granted the opportunity to explain himself. M. said that the document stated that he was late for the recruitment in May 2013, because he was late with the postponement. M. explained that he was working in the hospital where his father-in-law was bedridden. Therefore, M. was busy and delayed sending the postponement paper to his father, who was angry at the time because he had paid a late payment fine. M. further explained that at that time, he refused to be transferred to Harasta Hospital and Talal Mohalla طلال محلّا threatened to send him to prison. Judge Kriewald pointed out that the document stated that M.’s postponement was canceled in May 2012. M. responded that he might have been late in submitting a paper for postponement because it was war time.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Presiding Judge Koller shared an update regarding the summoning of [redacted name] to testify. Koller said that the Court is still trying to contact the aforementioned person at his place of residence and find his address. Nonetheless, the latest the Court has learned  was that he refuses to testify either in court or via video call. The Accused expressed his surprise at this person’s refusal to testify. The Presiding Judge said that the problem was that if the witness was outside Germany, the Court could only ask him to testify [i.e., cannot force him to testify].

The proceedings were adjourned at 11:30AM.

The next trial day will be on April 15, 2024, at 10AM.

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