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Inside the Alaa M. Trial #72: “He expresses his anger; he does not swallow it”

Inside the Alaa M. Trial #72: “He expresses his anger; he does not swallow it”

Higher Regional Court – Frankfurt, Germany

Trial Monitoring Summary #72

Hearing Date: April 15, 16, 18 & 19, 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:  SJAC continues to provide a summary of the proceedings while redacting certain details to protect witness privacy and to preserve the integrity of the trial.]

SJAC’s 72nd trial monitoring report details days 123, 124, 125, and 126 of the trial of Alaa M. in Frankfurt, Germany. On the first trial day this week, a linguistic expert appeared before the Court to translate some documents. The Judges then read a file memo by the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) regarding the witness, P36.

The second trial day this week was dedicated to questioning a new witness. However, prior to that, the Judges addressed an issue raised about a conversation between the interpreter and a witness at a previous hearing. SJAC shared with the Court’s Press Officer its trial report memorializing the interaction which raised questions concerning the impartiality of the interpreter [see for the background of this conversation, Trial Report# 71]. After the Judges heard the parties and conferred with each other, they decided to relieve the interpreter of his duty and replace him. The Accused then implied that SJAC’s trial monitor was taking audio records in court and asked if the trial monitor could be summoned as a witness to be questioned. The Presiding Judge told M. that this was possible, but M. should first consult with his Defense Counsel.

P36 then appeared as a witness in court and his questioning started. P36 currently works as a doctor in Germany and worked with M. in Al-Mazzeh Hospital. The witness appeared concerned throughout the hearing. The Judges questioned him about the hospitals he worked in, the detainees who were brought to the hospitals, their health condition, and their mistreatment. He was then questioned about his colleagues, including M., whom P36 described as an ostentatious person. P36 added that M. was abhorred by his colleagues because of his behavior and avoiding work.

On the third day this week, the Judges resumed the questioning of P36. The witness was asked in detail about a surgery P36 allegedly performed on the Accused. According to the witness, he initially believed the story told by M. but started doubting it after M. remained on prolonged sick leave and never returned to Al-Mazzeh after his injury. The witness was suspicious about whether M. exaggerated the injury to stay away from work or if there were indeed complications during the healing process. Moreover, the date of the surgery remained a contested issue throughout the trial day and the witness claimed several different periods but emphasized that he could not recall any specific date. He appeared insecure about several details throughout the day.

The Judges further confronted P36 with several documents. A work certificate issued in 2015 for M. by a former colleague of P36 was called into question because the witness was certain that this doctor was not the chief physician at the time as claimed in the document. P36’s own documents, submitted in relation to his visa and job applications, caused further suspicion because some formulations and formatting were identical to those of other colleagues from Syria. As other witnesses before P36, he omitted that he was working in a military hospital. The question whether P36 believed that M. could have done what the accusations proclaimed, the witness replied that he believed that M. was capable of it because a person like him “expresses his anger, he does not swallow it.”

On the last day of this unusually full trial week, Defense Counsel Al-Agi was questioned as a witness [see for the background of his testimony, Trial Report# 71]. The Judges wanted to know the circumstances of how the statement submitted in the name of P35 came about. Al-Agi recalled that he heard about a witness who was willing to give a declaration in M.’s favor and asked the witness to contact him. Via the phone, they spoke in Arabic and Al-Agi noted down his statement in German, sent it to the witness to review and sign it, and submitted it to the Court. The short and unspectacular testimony was followed by file memos submitted by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) related to documents on file with the immigration authority related to two witnesses. Before the end of the session, M. told the Court how he saved the lives of two fellow inmates who had cramping seizures in the prison courtyard. While saving a person who suffered from an epileptic seizure, according to the Accused, he injured his finger.

Day 123 – April 15, 2024

On this trial day, the linguistic expert, Mr. Farrag, was summoned to translate some documents for the Court. The correspondence between Defense Counsel Al-Agi and P35 was not shown on screen, the German translation was directly read by the linguistic expert. The correspondence included the statement which P35 claimed to have prepared himself and Al-Agi allegedly helped by making grammatical corrections, before Al-Agi sent it back to P35 to review and sign [Details of Al-Agi's questioning regarding this statement and correspondence are provided below in this report on Day 126. For more background information, please refer to Trial Report #71].

Subsequently, two articles [redacted] from Zaman Al Wasl were displayed and translated into German by the linguistic expert. The Judges concluded the hearing by displaying and reading a file memo by the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) concerning P35, which showed general information about the witness and photos of his passports including stamps within.

The proceedings were adjourned at 11:00ِAM.

The next trial day will be on April 16, 2024, at 10AM.

Day 124 – April 16, 2024

On the second trial day this week, the Judges entered the courtroom after a long delay. Soon after taking their seats, they left the courtroom, explaining that they would have to go through a discussion once again. Upon their return, Presiding Judge Koller explained that the reason for the delay was that the Judges needed to discuss a matter, as the Court's press office had informed the Judges that it was contacted by someone. Judge Koller emphasized that he would not allow the proceedings to be tainted or tampered with. He then summarized that there were allegations that interpreter Khoury spoke with P35 during the break and referred to a hijabi woman in the audience; that Lebanon became Islamic after being Christian; and that Syria will become Islamic if Assad leaves [For more background information, please refer to Trial Report #71]. Judge Koller then noted that this was deemed a statement indicating a political position on the Assad regime. Koller added that among the audience was a native Arabic speaker who could hear such things. Judge Koller's face lit up when he spotted Mr. Farrag [the brother of the deceased former Interpreter] among the spectators and asked him if he would be willing to help with translation later in this session if needed, to which Mr. Farrag agreed. Koller explained that he wanted to hear from the interpreter Khoury first and foremost. The Presiding Judge asked Khoury to take the stand, not as a witness, but to explain his position willingly. Judge Koller asked Mr. Khoury if what was stated was true, Mr. Khoury confirmed and apologized.

Apparently upset, the Presiding Judge found this unfortunate and appealed that any conversation between the interpreter and the witnesses - if necessary - be confined to general topics such as the weather. Koller went on to say that the Judges had to make a decision, but he wanted first to hear the opinion of the parties to the proceedings. Prosecutor Schlepp did not comment. Plaintiff’s Counsel Reiger suggested replacing the interpreter, because an interpreter with such political positions might influence witnesses. The Presiding Judge turned to the Defense Team, and Defense Counsel Bonn suggested two options, one of which was to replace the interpreter or to question the interpreter about whether he was impartial. Mr. Khoury intervened, saying that he believed that Al-Assad was currently the guardian of Christians in Syria, but this does not mean that he was pro-Assad.

Judge Koller wanted to clear up the situation, therefore, he read the email sent by Roger Lu Phillips, SJAC's legal director to the Court Press Officer [Judge Koller confused SJAC with CIJA] in English.

Dear Dr. Fehns-Boer,

I hope all is well with you. I would like to draw your attention to SJAC's latest trial monitoring report. In particular, our monitor noted some concerning statements made by the new interpreter that you may wish to bring to the attention of the Senate. The report is available here, and the relevant text is provided below.

"[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."

Best Regards,

Roger Lu Phillips

After the email was read, Defense Counsel Endres said that there were people who were influenced to be against M. and recalled that his colleague Al-Agi was questioned as a witness in court. Endres considered all of this problematic, and therefore he wanted to eliminate any doubts that may relate to the case so that the previous experience would not be repeated. Endres then said that he is formally requesting to relieve interpreter Khoury, then turned to Mr. Khoury, apologized, and explained that the matter was not personal. Defense Counsel Bonn supported and concurred with his colleague Endres’ opinion.

The Accused wanted to comment and said that the person referred to by the Presiding Judge was sitting among the spectators. M. recalled that the Court spoke with this person multiple times. M. said that the Presiding Judge mentioned that this person worked for CIJA (sic) [he works SJAC]. M. added that this was incorrect. The Presiding Judge turned to SJAC’s trial monitor who was in the audience and asked him if he worked for CIJA. SJAC’s trial monitor explained that he works for SJAC [the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre]. Presiding Judge Koller responded that this was just a matter of different pronunciation [the Presiding Judge seemed to inadvertently think that SJAC and CIJA were the same].

[Defense Counsel Al-Agi entered the courtroom.]

The Accused went on to say that he believes that [SJAC’s trial monitor] writes his reports in Arabic and then sends them to the United States. M. then said he wanted to know if [SJAC’s trial monitor] was audio-recording the trial proceedings [note: accredited media representatives are allowed to bring their mobile phones into the courtroom, but recordings and photos are strictly prohibited]. The Accused asked if [SJAC’s trial monitor] could be summoned and questioned in court.

In response to the Accused, the Presiding Judge told M. that recording audio in court is not possible nor allowed. Judge Koller then explained that the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre had previously published detailed reports on the trial but took them down after discussing with the Court. Koller told M. that he could have a look at the reports published by SJAC and see if they contained anything problematic. Judge Koller then reminded the Accused that he had repeatedly told M. in previous sessions that [SJAC’s trial monitor] had the right to take notes and document the procedures. Regarding summoning SJAC’s trial monitor for questioning in court, the Presiding Judge said that the option is theoretically possible, but that the Accused must discuss with his Defense Counsel. [Note: This was not the first time SJAC’s trial monitor was referred to by the Accused or someone else, as the Accused raised the issue of note taking in previous hearings. Likewise, it was not the first time the Presiding Judge explained to M. that certain individuals, including SJAC’s trial monitor, have the right to take notes.]

Addressing Mr. Khoury, Presiding Judge Koller said that it was not a matter of whether Khoury’s translation was bad, but that an Al-Assad-related position such as the one expressed by Khoury could taint and harm the proceedings. The Presiding Judge then announced a break for the Judges to discuss their decision.




Upon the Judges’ return, Presiding Judge Koller announced that the Court was relieving Mr. Khoury of his duties as an interpreter. Judge Koller asked Mr. Khoury to understand and then dismissed him. Thereafter, Mr. Farrag appeared in court as an interpreter.

Defense Counsel Bonn raised an issue regarding the psychologist, saying that since M. has exhibited disciplined behavior since his arrival in Germany, the Defense Team wanted a negative evaluation from the psychologist, i.e., to attest that M. did not exhibit tendencies towards any negative behavior - such as sadism - during the five years M. spent in Germany.

After that, the witness entered the courtroom and his questioning started. The new witness, [P36], is [redacted detail] old and works as an [redacted detail] doctor in Germany. Initially, P36 spoke exclusively in German, but later sometimes asked for the interpreter’s help to either translate the Judges' questions or his answers. When the Judges asked him to provide general information about himself, P36 said that he was born and raised in [redacted location] and listed the schools where he studied before he started studying medicine at [redacted location] in [redacted date] and graduated in [redacted date] to begin his medical training in [redacted date]. P36 said that all the hospitals where he worked were military. He began his medical training in [redacted location] Hospital in Dar’a [province], then [redacted location] Hospital [the name was pronounced unclearly], followed by a month in [redacted location] Hospital in [redacted date], then spent a year in Tishreen Hospital starting in [redacted date], until he transferred to Al-Mazzeh Hospital in [redacted date], where he completed his medical training. His graduation exam took place in [redacted date].

The Judges wondered why P36 left his homeland and came to Germany and wanted to know whether the reason was economic or political. P36 denied that there was a political reason and said that people close to him knew that he wanted to leave life in Syria from the beginning. P36 added that there is no infrastructure in Syria, and one is unable to work there as a doctor. Judge Koller asked P36 to describe Al-Assad’s regime, and P36 said: “What should I say? I find it not good.”

Judge Koller noted that there had been changes in Syria and wanted to know what P36 experienced during that phase. P36 said that when he was working in Dar’a, casualties, which were military at first and later detained civilians, started to arrive at the hospital. Judge Koller wanted P36 to describe their injuries, noting that he was aware that one may have concerns when talking about these topics especially if one has relatives in Syria. If that was the case, Koller asked P36 to inform the Court. [redacted detail]. P36 answered that the detainees' general condition and nutritional state were poor, in addition to their poor condition in terms of personal care and hygiene. P36 further said that there were cases of exsiccosis [dehydration]. Regarding torture, P36 said that there were cases of beatings on the body, hematomas, and abscesses of untreated wounds. P36 explained that most of the cases were in Al-Mazzeh Hospital, not in Tishreen.

Judge Koller asked the witness to describe his contact with the detained patients. P36 explained that there were [redacted date] detainees. He described the location of the rooms in which the detainees were placed, namely in another building [redacted date] and in special rooms for detainees in each department. P36 then described how the detainees were blindfolded, handcuffed, with their legs shackled together and to the beds. After that, P36 explained that there were medical rounds for the patients in which he participated, which consisted of a senior doctor, a specialist doctor, resident doctors, nurses as well as intelligence personnel who waited outside. P36 explained that he did not witness but only heard about mistreatment of these patients.




Judge Koller wanted to carry on with the questioning on torture and quoted what P36 stated in the police questioning when P36 said that he heard screams but did not witness torture. P36 responded that he heard screams of pain but did not know if the cause was torture or something else. P36 assumed, however, that the screams could be due to mistreatment. When P36 was unable to describe the intensity of the screams, Judge Rhode asked him if he knew P28, which P36 confirmed. Judge Rhode said that P28 told the Court that the screams could be heard on the first or second floor, but P36 did not remember.

Judge Rhode asked if P36 heard of death cases among the detained patients. P36 confirmed and said that he did not see but heard about them from the nurses. He further said that the doctors did not discuss the issue with the head of the department because it was risky. When Rhode further inquired about the nurses, P36 explained that they were either conscripts or enlisted in the military, and they did not care much as their tone of voice indicated. Rhode concluded that the nurses were happy about the death of one of the rebels, and P36 confirmed.

[Defense Counsel Endres entered the courtroom]

Judge Rhode wondered whether there was a smell of corpses in the hospital. P36 said that there was a bad smell in the department, but it was the smell of patients, not the dead. Judge Rhode recalled P36 stating in the police questioning that the Presidential Palace complained about the smell. P36 responded that he did not know if it was the smell of corpses. When Judge Rhode asked about mistreatment of detainees, P36 replied that sometimes the intelligence personnel beat the detainees with hoses. P36 added that he once heard about a similar incident in which the detainees were beaten by nurses.




After the break, Judge Kriewald wanted to know what was done with the corpses and if a doctor confirmed their death. P36 replied that he does not know, and that confirming death was not among his responsibilities.

A satellite image depicting Homs Military Hospital was shown with labels noted down by P36 during police questioning. P36 was asked to explain the photo and to describe where his and other departments were located.

Judge Rhode asked about the names of colleagues who worked with P36 in the hospital departments. P36 listed the names of his colleagues, [redacted names]. Rhode asked if P36 knew [D5]. P36 confirmed and recounted details about him. Rhode then asked about the head of the department in which P36 worked. P36 replied that he was [D1], and recounted details about him, including that he worked in his own practice where sometimes, P36 and other doctors assisted him.




After the break, Judge Koller asked P36 to describe whether the doctors in Al-Mazzeh Hospital were anti- or pro-regime. P36 responded that some of them were pro-regime whereas others were neutral. Koller asked if there was any pro-opposition. P36 replied that it was possible, however, he did not remember anything concrete in that regard. Judge Rhode wanted to know which of the doctors in his department were authorized to participate in the medical rounds to check on the detainees, and whether some doctors were not welcome to visit the detainees’ room. P36 said he believes all doctors were allowed. Judge Rhode said that this was contrary to the witness’s statements in the police interrogation, when P36 said that the Sunnis were not allowed due to concerns that they would take pictures or videos. P36 replied that this was possible yet not something official. Judge Rhode wanted to know if P36 had Sunni colleagues who switched their workplace to another hospital. P36 confirmed that his two colleagues at [redacted location] Hospital in Dar’a, [redacted names], moved to [redacted location] [Civil] Hospital, in addition to another colleague in Al-Mazzeh whose name P36 no longer remembers. Rhode wondered whether the Sunnis generally faced problems during their medical training in military hospitals. P36 confirmed and explained that they were either afraid of being associated with the regime or had fear in general.prov

Judge Rhode asked the witness about Tishreen Hospital. P36’s appeared more worried. Judge Koller asked if P36 had a fear for himself or one of his relatives in Syria. In a subdued voice, P36 answered that [redacted detail]. Koller said that at the beginning of the hearing, he asked P36 about this matter but P36 did not tell him anything.

In the ensuing questioning, the Judges asked about the Accused, how and when P36 got to know him. The witness answered that he got to know M. in Al-Mazzeh Hospital. When the Judges asked him to recount what he knew about M., P36 hesitated to answer, and the Judges began to elicit answers from him. P36 described M. as being eager, driven in life, who liked to show that he was powerful and wealthy [note: “powerful” was not translated from Arabic into German by the interpreter]. P36 added that most of M.’s colleagues did not like M., because of his character, because he did not work much as he did not care much, and because he would use his excuses - illness for example - to avoid work. After the Judges reminded him of his statements in the police interrogation, P36 recounted how M. used to delegate his work to his juniors and ingratiate himself with his superiors. When the Judges asked him to appraise M.'s quality of work and medical knowledge, P36 said, “It could have been better.”




Presiding Judge Koller wanted to know whether P36 classified M. as pro-Assad. P36 presumed that M. was “with Al-Assad.” [It was mistranslated by the interpreter into: “loyal to Al-Assad.”] Defense Counsel Al-Agi intervened and corrected the translation, explaining that the witness said, “with Al-Assad.” The Presiding Judge acknowledged that the two meanings were different. The Judges tried to establish when M. worked at Al-Mazzeh Hospital with P36. P36 said that he worked for a few months with M. from [redacted date] 2012 until M. injured his [redacted detail] and came to Al-Mazzeh Hospital [for treatment], M. took a recovery period, and then left and never returned. Throughout the period in which both worked together, an explosion occurred in Damascus in [redacted date], P36 added.

Judge Rhode asked if P36 heard that M. assisted [D1] in a surgery in the latter’s private practice for one of M.'s acquaintances [referring to P29. For more background information, please refer to Trial Report #63], P36 denied. Presiding Judge Koller announced the end of P36's questioning for the day, to be completed in the next session. Koller asked the witness to look through his old phones, if P36 still has them, and see if he can find photos related to the Accused or old conversations with him. P36 said he would try to find conversations, but he was sure there were no photos. The witness was then dismissed.

The interpreter noted that the witness was saying “Praxis [English: practice],” but he could hear Judge Rhode saying “Klinik [English: clinic/hospital].” The Presiding Judge thanked Mr. Farrag for his spontaneous presence at the trial session and dismissed him.

Before the session concluded, the Accused wanted to point out that there is a difference in Syria between “Praxis” and “Klinik.” M. said that [D1] only worked in the French Hospital as a “Belegarzt” [English: external doctor with a hospital affiliation]. M. said that doctors in Syria have shares and investments in hospitals, and the French hospital is Christian where exclusively Christian doctors work.

The proceedings were adjourned at 3:32PM.

The next trial day will be on April 18, 2024, at 10AM.

Day 125 – April 18, 2024

On this trial day, the Judges resumed the questioning of P36. Presiding Judge Koller first thanked Mr. Farrag who served as the interpreter for coming on this day after Mr. Khoury was relieved of his duties due to concerns of partiality [see trial day 124 for more details.] P36 was asked to enter the courtroom and the Judges recalled the previous session. First, they asked P36 whether he was able to search his Facebook Messenger communication for any relevant conversations which the witness denied. He said that he searched but was unsuccessful.

The Judges then resumed their questioning related to the [redacted detail] injury of the Accused [note: The witness had a decent command of German and replied mostly in German, he requested help of the interpreter only from time to time.] The witness recounted that on the day of the injury, he was on duty, it happened in the afternoon, and he was in the department. He further remembered that he [M.] arrived in the car, in the passenger seat, but in a private car. He added that he only heard that M. was injured [redacted detail] from a colleague in the ER and explained that the surgery was performed on the same day. Upon questioning by the Judges, P36 provided details about what he heard had happened. [redacted details]. Based on the statements P36 gave during the police questioning, the Judges further inquired him about any doubt regarding the story. P36 cautiously explained that at first, they did not question the story although it may have been uncommon, it was a possible explanation. However, he continued, the course of events in the aftermath raised doubt. The Judges asked for further details and the witness explained that M. was on sick leave for several months and never returned to Al-Mazzeh Hospital, he changed his workplace after the leave. Overall speaking with hesitation, P36 added that two to three weeks of recovery were common, so they [he and other colleagues] doubted whether M. was exaggerating or if there were in fact complications during the healing process.

The Judges were interested in further details regarding the surgery and M.’s treatment afterwards. P36 explained that he and [redacted name] performed the surgery, M. did not stay in the hospital ward, just in the doctor’s room and left to recover at home, he did not have a memory of M. being in a hospital bed. Confronted with the name [redacted name], the witness said that he was the hospital director during the time when the witness worked there, at least until the end of [redacted date]. The Judges then showed the witness a document written in Arabic which allegedly described what happened to M. and detailed that the injury occurred on [redacted date]. The document was signed by Brigadier General [redacted name]. Upon questioning, the witness said that this was also possible and became more hesitant. Regarding the issue date, P36 said that it was not uncommon in Syria that documents were issued months later.

Recalling that M. never returned to Al-Mazzeh, the Judges wanted to know if P36 still had contact with M. after that. P36 replied that they did not talk, not even via Facebook messenger. Whether the witness had seen or heard how M. treated detained patients was denied. He soundly rejected that he saw anything but assumed that those who were loyal to the regime did not want to treat patients from the opposition. Besides that, they [the doctors] came late which he interpreted as indifference, but he had no tangible evidence. He simply recalled that there was a “stream” including nurses who were pro-regime. Asked about [P28] and if he belonged to this group, the witness replied, “He treated them. He was a good doctor and a good person.” The Judges asked him to characterize P28, nonetheless. P36 said that “everything is relative, nothing is just black and white.” Gently urged by the Judges to reply, P36 recalled that P28 was rather supporting [the regime], but claimed that “it is nothing bad.” Judge Rhode was further interested if P36 and M. had conversations about detained patients which the witness denied. P36 added that they never spoke in private, just with other doctors in the common room but he did not hear M. speaking about detained patients.

Judge Rhode then turned to the contact between the witness and M. in Germany. P36 recalled that they met twice in [redacted location] in 2015 but they only spoke about private issues, professional questions such as their license to practice medicine, and language barriers. P36 claimed that they did not have contact, maybe once or twice on the phone, but very little after the meeting in [redacted location] where P36 also spent one night at M.’s house. Upon questioning, P36 denied that he was present during the New Year’s Eve party in 2019.

The Judges also wanted to know when and how P36 learned about the allegations against M. P36 said that he heard about them late, he could not remember how. With some details provided by Judge Rhode, P36 explained that he may have heard about the accusations from a colleague, and he started reading more about it online, although he did not remember on which media outlet, and denied that he contacted M. since they were not in contact anymore. P36 was then asked if he knew about a dispute between M. and a colleague which the witness denied. If he knew about a story that M. was asked to work in a field hospital, the witness also denied.




After a break, the Judges recalled that P36 mentioned that he was concerned about his [redacted detail] in Syria and wanted to know if there were any concrete threats. P36 denied and explained that it is his general worry, but also that he does not recall the details since a lot of time has passed; he was worried to say something wrong. Presiding Judge Koller reiterated that the authorities could provide protection in Germany or Europe, however, not in Syria and abstractly addressed the Syrian government by saying that it would not be clever to intimidate witnesses since the Syrian state is seeking recognition by the international community. Upon finishing his speech, Judge Koller asked the witness to try to remember the exact date of the surgery but P36 was unable to. He repeated that, based on the displayed document, the date seemed more realistic to him, but overall, the Judges noted, several different dates were mentioned which did not help clarifying the matter.

The Judges then changed the topic to other relevant details. They began by asking if doctors were sent on external missions. The witness replied that [redacted detail] but then added that before the war, it was common that doctors [redacted detail]. He added that in the central prison, there were doctors yet not demonstrators, but civilian patients were held there.

After clarifying that the witness’s last name was common and represented a figure from the bible, Judge Rhode asked P36 about [redacted name] and showed him a job application by M. which detailed a work certificate from Damascus signed in 2015 by the same person, as chief physician. P36 recalled knowing him but only superficially from a joint exam preparation during their traineeship. He firmly rejected that this was correct and said that this person was not chief physician in 2015 and not in Damascus but in [redacted location]. However, the name [redacted name] displayed on another document did not ring a bell for the witness.

After having inspected M.’s documents, the witness was confronted with his own and with those of his colleague, [redacted name], which were almost identical. Whether the content was false was denied by the witness. But further confronted with identical documents by [P28], the witness explained that they used templates. Asked why he wrote that all his training took place in Tishreen but not Al-Mazzeh and [redacted location], the witness explained that it was not important since it all belonged to Tishreen Military Hospital. Rhode asked why he omitted the fact that the hospitals were military, which P36 answered with “no reason”. Rhode assumed that it may have not been advantageous to mention it. P36 denied and said that it did not play a role. Before issuing a short break, Presiding Judge Koller said that it may have played a role which is precisely why they all omitted it.




After the break, only few questions from the Judges ensued, but did not clarify why the witness was even more unsure about the date of M.’s injury on this trial day than on the preceding one. Upon questioning, P36 denied that he had contact with any other person who testified or read any trial report online since Tuesday, but it seemed that the Judges bench was unconvinced.

Judge Adlhoch was interested in another detail. She confronted P36 with his statement made during the police questioning where he was asked how he reacted to the accusations against M. According to the police transcript, P36 said “it does not surprise me, (…) because it would fit his character”. Interested in why P36 judges M. like this, he replied that he did not have solid evidence, but he believes that M. was capable of it because a person like him “expresses his anger, he does not swallow it.” Although he had never seen him in rage, he believed that it was possible [that the accusations were true].

The Judges had no further questions and issued a lunch break.




Upon return, the Judges followed up on minor issues. They wanted to know if [redacted name] also performed the surgery because he did not mention it during the police questioning. P36 firmly confirmed that he was involved. Questioned about any injury [redacted name] suffered, P36 recalled that he fell and was on sick leave for 2-3 months during the summer either of [redacted date]. Whether P36 knew [redacted name], apparently a doctor in Al-Mazzeh, was denied by the witness.

The Prosecutor then asked if any person related to M., relatives or friends, had told P36, before or after his testimony, what he should say. P36 replied that he did not receive any call. The Plaintiffs’ Counsel and the Defense Representatives did not have any questions. M. then asked several questions related to the surgery, which supposedly took place in the French Hospital, raised a couple of names and wanted to know whether one of the Sunni colleagues was permitted to treat patients which the witness confirmed. M. further asked which specialist doctor was also present when the surgery was performed on him, the witness recalled a name, but M. suggested another, [redacted name], which the witness then confirmed. After a while, the Judges asked M. to pose his questions more openly, which was partly successful. Counsel Endres, a bit annoyed, rephrased some of his questions to abide by the Judges request. M. continued to ask very detailed and specific medical questions which went beyond P36’s memory but rather required him to give his expert opinion as a doctor. Judge Koller thus interfered. M. went on with questions regarding his own placement in the hospital and the Al-Jazeera documentary until Judge Koller issued a 5-minute break and asked M. to consult his Defense lawyers to discuss what he aimed to prove with his questions. Upon return, Counsel Endres only had one question which concerned a hospital visit by Al-Assad who apparently came to Tartous. According to the witness, he [P36] was not working there at the time, but in 2011, he was present. The cryptic questions were received with confused eyes by the Judges and the public.

The witness was subsequently dismissed, and Judge Koller reminded everyone that Counsel Al-Agi will appear as a witness the following day.

The proceedings were adjourned at 2:33PM.

The next trial day will be on April 19, 2024, at 10AM.

Day 126 – April 19, 2024

On the fourth day this week, Defense Counsel Al-Agi was questioned as a witness related to a written statement made by P35 in a previous session. The statement concerned M.'s arrival in Damascus and detailed the confirmation that M. moved to Damascus at the end of 2011. The statement was written in high level German, so the Judges had considerable doubt that the witness drafted it himself which he had claimed repeatedly. In the session after the document was discussed, Counsel Al-Agi admitted that he was involved [see for the details of this session: TR# 71.] At the beginning of today’s session, M. explicitly relieved Al-Agi from his professional confidentiality again and Al-Agi took the witness stand.

Presiding Judge Koller informed Al-Agi about his rights and duties as a witness and recalled the background of the statement. He then asked Al-Agi to elaborate on the details of the statement. Al-Agi recalled that he and his colleague, attorney Mr. Sittig, were requested to draft the pleading of the case. He remembered that he spoke to M.'s wife and uncle to respond to the accusations concerning 2011 and partly 2012. Al-Agi explained that he was informed that a witness exists who was befriended with M., lived there, and who was willing to testify regarding the year 2012. Al-Agi then informed Mr. Sittig that he would be willing to receive the statement from the witness and he [the witness] should call him. According to Al-Agi, the witness called him and introduced himself. Al-Agi did not know where the witness resided, he received the information from M.’s relatives. It all concerned 2012.

Koller wanted to know if the entire conversation occurred via telephone which Al-Agi confirmed and added that he asked the witness several questions such as since when he knew M., if he was a civilian or military doctor, if he knew when M. moved to Damascus. Upon questioning, Al-Agi remembered that he learned about the witness from M.’s uncle, named [redacted name]. Whether [redacted name] was involved was denied by Al-Agi. The Counsel further explained that the witness was indignant that people said M. was a military doctor, that M. was not in Damascus at the time, and that the witness stayed at M.’s place. Al-Agi then said, “I wrote the statement, and I went through with him twice if everything was correct which he confirmed.” Al-Agi further recounted that he asked the witness to forward photos of them if he had any. Judge Koller recalled that the statement was written in German and wanted to know if it existed in Arabic as well. Al-Agi explained that they spoke in Arabic on the phone and at the same time he noted down the statement in German, they only spoke once on the phone. He also recalled that there were some terms such as “bachelor’s life” [German: “Junggesellenleben”] which he added himself because the witness said “We were friends, young, people without wives, without obligations” which Al-Agi turned into bachelor’s life. If other people were involved, was denied by Al-Agi.

Judge Koller then asked what evidential weight Al-Agi thought the statement would have. Al-Agi replied that it was certainly not proof, but a declaration by the witness. Upon questioning, Al-Agi denied that notes in original existed because he directly noted it down while discussing. Rhode asked if P35 expressed doubt. Al-Agi recalled that P35 was not certain about the moving which is why he wrote “end of 2011, beginning of 2012”. Rhode asked if P35 was certain about Tartous. Al-Agi remembered that he had doubts but confirmed that the witness mentioned Tartous himself. The Judges also confronted Al-Agi with an email in which the witness replied that he did not find “the photo” and asked why it was in singular, if it concerned a specific photo. The Counsel denied and said that he asked for any photos together. Upon questioning, he denied that they had any further contact. Al-Agi was dismissed without further questioning by the other parties.

After Al-Agi returned to his seat on the Defense’s bench, the Judges read out two file memos by the Federal Criminal Police Office [BKA]. One concerned the witness P36 who had testified this week. The other concerned [redacted name] who will appear as a witness. The BKA requested and evaluated the files from the immigration authority, in particular if a relation to M. could be established which turned out negative. It further assessed and compared the application documents, namely the CV, motivation letter, and work certificates by the two witnesses and found that they were identical in some formulations and formatting.

At last, M. was given the time for a statement requested by his Counsel. On Monday this week, the Judges learned that he was injured because he was wearing a bandage. On this Friday, M. wore a plaster on his fingers and showed it to the Judges. Defense Counsel Endres told the Judges that “he saved the lives of two persons.”

M. then recalled that in 2020, a co-inmate fell [fainted] while they were outside in the courtyard of the prison. M. remembered that he understood that the detainee suffered a cramping seizure. M. saved his life by intubating him with a table tennis paddle so he wouldn't suffocate from swallowing his own tongue. M. recalled that he was greatly thanked by the officers on duty. The second incident, according to the Accused, allegedly happened in the previous week. Another fellow inmate fell and saliva started flowing from his mouth. M. recounted that he knew again that the person had a very strong cramping seizure and M. understood immediately that he suffered from an epileptic attack. Again, according to M., he intervened. This time, at first, he used his hand to empty the mouth and grabbed the tongue- He was injured due to the biting of the person. He used the table tennis paddle again and saved the man. M. apologized but mentioned that the person was black, from Africa, maybe a Somali, and asked to be treated for any infectious diseases. He later learned that the person in fact was epileptic, but he was not treated in prison. M. said that after a couple of days later, the wound had become infected and he received antibiotics, a creme and a bandage. Upon questioning how he knew what to do although epilepsy was a neurological not an orthopedic issue, M. claimed that doctors learn emergency interventions for all departments, it was "basic knowledge."

The Judges, not particularly impressed, did not have questions nor did the other parties to the proceedings.

The proceedings were adjourned at 11:17AM.

The next trial day will be on May 7, 2024, at 10AM.


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