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Inside the Alaa M. Trial #73: Read Very Carefully and Comprehend!

Inside the Alaa M. Trial #73: Read Very Carefully and Comprehend!

Higher Regional Court – Frankfurt, Germany

Trial Monitoring Summary #73

Hearing Date: May 7 and 8, 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 73rd trial monitoring report details days 127 and 128 of the trial of Alaa M. in Frankfurt, Germany. On the first trial day this week, the Court informed the parties that a witness residing outside of Germany was unwilling to testify without protection measures, but he forwarded through his legal representative three pages of chat conversation with the Accused.

After the notification, a new witness appeared before the Court, P37. Right at the beginning he mentioned that he was nervous and remained in a very tense condition. He was hesitant to answer questions and thought for a long time before replying. After reassuring them that he was not threatened in relation to his testimony, the Judges became less understanding and tried urging him to tell the truth. In the beginning he claimed that M. was a friend, but throughout the session he recalled only a couple of times, 4-5 in Syria and 3 in Germany, when they met and had little contact. He was confronted with statements made during the police questioning in 2021 which were in conflict with his testimony several times. However, he was unable to provide credible explanations and continued claiming that he did not remember. More than once, the Judges told him that they had doubts or, straightforwardly, that they did not find his answers credible.

The witness claimed to have seen several patients who were blindfolded, but only a few incidents of mistreatment. He could not confirm or deny that doctors were sent on external missions. When asked, he did not recall the name of the person who M. allegedly had a dispute with, but that M. told him that a doctor threatened him on social media. He could not recall whether M. told him that he was asked to work in a field hospital or the reason for the alleged dispute. The witness also did not know about any injury M. might have suffered. He was further one of the guests at the New Year's Eve party in the castle [attended by several other witnesses]. Upon questioning, the witness said that they did not speak about the allegations, not in private nor in the big group.

On the second day, the Judges asked for the confirmation of all parties to the proceedings to introduce the entire police questioning with P37 since the Judges deemed it more valuable to read out the full transcript in court as opposed to summoning the police officer who conducted it. All parties gave their consent.

The questioning of the witness, P37, was then resumed. He was asked if he wanted to add anything to yesterday's testimony after a night to reflect. The witness apologized and reiterated that he was unable to recall most of the details he was asked for while recounting his memories from the hospital once more today. Koller specifically asked about one patient who had bruises according to the police transcript but who P37 had difficulties remembering yesterday. P37 recounted the same as the day before and claimed to have seen a room full of patients, one of them with a drainage at his abdomen and one with a head bandage; one of them might have had the bruises (indicating signs of torture) but he could not recall with certainty. Koller remained frustrated with P37’s reply pointing out again that this was an exceptional experience.

After confronting P37 with several names, mainly doctors or relatives, the Judges tried to readdress the night when the witness claimed to have been brought to the train station by M. on [redacted date] to receive his visa at the German embassy in Jordan the next day. The witness recalled little of how the lift came about, but that M. knew the roads in Damascus well. He was unable to confirm whether M. worked at Al-Mazzeh 601 at the time despite repeated questioning by the Judges and later the Defense Team. Upon questioning, P37 gave little detail about M.'s appearance and character but confirmed that he was pro-Assad. P37 himself was also rather pro-regime but he added that it was about safety for Christians, and one had to choose between Assad and ISIS, so he preferred a dictatorial regime. He further claimed that there was no or little communication with anyone outside, above all, others who testified in court, which the Judges were not convinced about. He remained stressed and tense throughout the session. Before dismissing the witness, the threatening letter he received was assessed but the parties could not make sense of it.

Day 127 – May 7, 2024

At the beginning of today's session, Presiding Judge Koller informed the parties to the proceedings that Defense Counsel Bonn's motion which he previously submitted concerning a negative evaluation of any psychological disorder M. might suffer from was phrased as a value judgment. Judge Koller recommended formulating questions to the expert regarding facts which he could address in his opinion.

Judge Koller further informed the parties to the proceedings that the witness, [redacted name] who was named by P35 [for the testimony of P35 see Trial Report #71: "The Joker"] was not willing to testify unless the public would be excluded and his identity not disclosed. Koller further said that the witness lived in [redacted location], meaning that the Court was unable to enforce the summons. According to Judge Koller, the first mail the Court had sent did not arrive at his address, so they contacted his employer, [redacted detail] and spoke to the witness via email. Well aware that his name was already mentioned in court, Koller repeated it and added that they could not exclude the public and they will wait for further communication with him. Koller added that the witness mentioned that he had family in Syria which is why he did not want to testify publicly.

A new witness was then called to enter the courtroom. [Redacted name], P37, is a doctor from Homs who had worked in Al-Mazzeh 601 for approx. one year from 2011 to 2012 and claimed that he was neither directly nor by marriage related to M. but that they were friends. He said he currently works as a chief physician in a cardiology clinic in [redacted location]. According to the witness, he left Syria at the beginning of 2012. [Note: The witness spoke very good German and testified almost exclusively in German. Only a few times, he asked the interpreter for assistance.] Right at the beginning, he apologized for speaking fast since he was nervous. He remained in a tense condition throughout the testimony, was often hesitant to answer questions and thought for a long time before replying. Asked about his background, he explained that he always wanted to become a cardiac surgeon in Germany and worked towards this objective. He recalled that after his studies, he needed to bridge the time until he found an employment in Germany and started working for the military in Syria. He explained that there are three Ministries: 1) Ministry of Health, 2) Ministry of Defense, and 3) Ministry of Higher Education. The Judges recalled that only those with the best grades were accepted in university clinics which were also the best. The witness affirmed and added that the grades were not an obstacle for him, but he chose the Ministry of Defense starting in Tishreen hospital and rotating to Al Mazzeh 601 after that. The Judges inquired about the dates of his employment in Al Mazzeh in detail which led to some confusion. First, P37 said that he worked there for less than a year from 2011, until 2012 [redacted dates] until he received the visa. Confronted with his police questioning, where he stated that he worked there from [2011] [redacted date] until [2012] [redacted date], the Judges concluded that he worked in Al-Mazzeh over one year. The witness replied that this was also possible, he did not have his CV at hand, but confirmed that the period in the police transcript was the correct version. P37 further explained that he was rejected for a visa twice until he finally received it and departed from Syria on 2012 [redacted date].

The Judges then asked how the political unrest influenced his working schedule in the hospital. The witness recalled that they had longer standby hours, which was also due to the war. Upon question, P37 remembered that the injured patients were young and old, soldiers and also the wives of soldiers who gave birth, and sometimes demonstrators. Upon question, P37 recounted that one knew that they were demonstrators because after a while they arrived blindfolded and wore torn clothes. When asked how many times he had seen such a scene, he replied that two to three times but not like in the aftermath on TV. Judge Koller confronted P37 with his police questioning where he said he saw it once. Koller added that the Court had seen the Caesar Files and reminded P37 to tell the truth. P37 reiterated that he saw it two to three times, definitely not ten, but the two he recalled. He explained that they were escorted by soldiers but did not remember how they were treated. Medically, they received treatment for serious injuries, such as one for a gunshot to the stomach.

Asked about the pictures of chained patients, the witness had to think about it before denying that he saw patients in the ER with tied hands and feet but could only recall blurred memories. He added that “it is like a dream right now.” Judge Koller asked him to try making an effort to recall details, which the Judge would repeat several times throughout the testimony, since P37 was repeatedly unable to give any details, for instance when he was asked in which condition the patients were. Confronted with his own statement made before the police, that they were “malnourished”, P37 testified that he could not say whether they received food or not. He could however recall that one patient was treated roughly but could not give details and hesitated with every question. The Judges addressed his reluctance and the witness said that no one wants to go through this at the beginning of a career as a doctor. He repeated that besides unfriendly treatment, he did not witness mistreatment but heard about it from colleagues and from the media later. Beating, insults and the withholding of food were some of the things he heard, but when asked if the doctors did these things, the witness decisively rejected it and explained that at that time, they were still like a family. He did not remember whether the cleaning staff was involved, but nurses and soldiers were.

The Judges asked if he saw patients who showed signs that they were mistreated, he said he could not say much about it. Judge Rhode became unsettled and told P37 that he told the police that he saw bruises on a patient which could have been a result of torture and read out the respective section from the transcript. Even with the confrontation, P37 said that it was difficult to remember now, he could not say this again, he did not recall the situation. Judge Koller suggested a break and demanded the witness to think about the statement during this time.




Asked again what he could recall about a person with bruises upon return from the break, the witness replied that he would like to say something different and he felt very uncomfortable, because he would come across as a liar, but he could not say that there was a person in the rooms of patients which he remembered with bruises. Judge Koller decisively explained that it was difficult for the Court to understand why he could not recall what he had stated before the police in 2021 and asked if he had any other problems. The witness denied but also explained that last year he received a threat letter urging him to leave his job, which he however does not connect to the current trial. After several questions related to any knowledge about who could have written it and why which were all denied, the Judges asked to send the letter to the Court for further evaluation and resumed questioning of the events in Syria.

P37 recalled that patients had numbers, that armed guards were placed outside the doors and restricted access, and that military and civilian doctors treated the patients. Upon questioning, the witness recalled that military doctors were sent to the military prison to treat patients, but he never heard of civilian doctors who went, he could, however, not exclude it with certainty. He could further not recall that there was any differentiation between the confessions of doctors, nor that detained patients were in other departments of the hospital. He recounted several departments including the trauma department before asking for a break.




Upon return, the Judges projected a photograph of a patient who held his own oxygen mask which was posted by the witness on social media in 2012. He explained that it was meant to be funny referring to the bad conditions in military hospitals as opposed to university clinics. Upon questioning, he denied that this was referring to the conditions during the civil war.




After the lunch break, the Judges informed the parties that they received an email from another witness’s legal representative who previously indicated that he was unwilling to testify without protection measures. The representative reiterated that the witness remained unwilling to testify and that he could not contribute anything to the case since he did not remember when M. arrived in Damascus. On behalf of the witness, the legal representative forwarded three pages of a chat conversation in Arabic. Judge Koller explained that the Court will first translate and assess the chat before taking further steps in response to Defense Counsel Endres’ suggestion to request questioning through mutual legal assistance by the [redacted detail] authorities.

When P37 appeared before the Court, the witness said that he was a friend of Alaa M. The Judges then asked him what he meant by that. The witness recalled that their families were from the same area, but he and Alaa M. did not have much contact at the time. Both studied at different universities but when they occasionally met, they spoke about the studies of medicine. After their graduation, they worked in different hospitals and P37 was mainly in contact with the brothers [redacted names], P26 and P28. He studied with P26 and later lived with P28 for a while in [redacted location]. Upon questioning, P37 recalled that he met M. 4-5 times in Syria. He also picked M. up from the airport in Germany, visited him once in [redacted location], and they celebrated New Year’s Eve together in a castle. The question arose what friendship means since the Judges wondered that 4-5 times in Syria and three times in Germany was very little to establish a friendship, but they left open the evaluation that may also culturally differ. Nonetheless, the witness did not recall many details from M.’s private life, providing information on his specification and his family.

The Judges wondered why P37 did not mention that they worked together in Al-Mazzeh. The witness replied that “he was there, but I did not meet him in the ER or the doctor's accommodation, it was only 2-3 months.” The Judges were surprised and suggested that it must have been 13 months, which the witness confirmed. Judge Rhode said that this was surprising and asked when he saw M. the first time. P37 said he does not remember. Rhode asked if it was 2012 or already 2011, the witness said probably 2011 but he could not say for sure. Rhode asked if they met 4-5 times, maybe it was also in 2012 and the witness said rather not, they saw each other very little. If he could remember a situation when they spoke about M. coming to Damascus, he denied. If the brothers said something to him about it, the witness did not remember. Why he said that it was only 2-3 months, the witness said he does not know, only that it was a short time. The Judges were unsatisfied and continued with several questions circling around the meetings with M. Although he recalled one night in detail because M. took him to the bus station at night to travel to Jordan to pick up his visa, the witness could not say with certainty that M. worked at the hospital in Al-Mazzeh 601 at that time. The Judges were skeptical because it was difficult to believe that the witness did not know whether he and M. worked at the same hospital. The witness repeated that he could not confirm that M. worked in Al-Mazzeh or in another hospital.

The witness recalled that he spoke to M. on the phone about the night when he drove him to the train station [when both were outside of Syria]. Judge Rhode asked if the call had anything to do with the allegations against M. P37 recalled most likely following the documentary and the media coverage, he asked M. who told him “You know me, I would never do such thing.” P37 further recalled that the media falsely reported that M. was a military doctor. Upon questioning, he denied that M. or his relatives influenced him. He remembered that M. told him about a doctor who threatened him via social media but did not recall why. He had neither heard that M. was requested to work in a field hospital. P37 also denied knowing about any injury of M. and after a question by Rhode he said M. did not have a war injury, he would have known. He further listed all the names of persons who were present at the New Year’s Eve celebration and explained that they did not speak about the allegations in private nor in the big group, at least not when he was present.

Before adjourning the session, the Judges asked the witness to provide them with the threatening letter he received and to look for any communication on Facebook messenger or WhatsApp with M. for the next day.

The proceedings were adjourned at 3:17PM.

The next trial day will be on May 8, 2024, at 10AM.

Day 128 – May 8, 2024

At the beginning of the second trial day this week, Presiding Judge Koller asked the parties to the proceedings to give their consent to introduce the police questioning with P37 to the proceedings and read the transcript out in public. The parties all gave their consent.

P37 then entered the room, and the Judges resumed his questioning. They first asked for any chat communication with M. or photos from their time in Syria or Germany. The witness could not provide any of the requested material. The witness, however, forwarded the threatening letter which he had received the previous year to be inspected during the session.

The Judges then asked if the witness could now recall anything else after having rested for a day. He replied that he went through all the moments again, the hospital, the ER, the urology, the colleagues, times, the accommodation, the drive with M. and the cleaning company, but he could not tell the Court anything else today. Judge Koller expressed his understanding and reminded him of the hematomas which must have been a peculiar situation. The witness recalled an image of a patient in underwear, in clothes not belonging to the hospital, the instruments of the hospital and a patient with a drainage from the abdomen, another with a head bandage. He added he could not recall anything else.

Judge Rhode then asked if P37 was also employed in other hospitals which the witness denied explaining that after two years he would have rotated to Tishreen which never happened. Rhode confronted him with a statement by [redacted name], P30, who said that P37 was in Tishreen. The witness denied and explained that P30 must have erred. Rhode then mentioned several names which the witness identified and told the Judges who these persons were. Rhode then wanted to know if [redacted name], P26, was already in Al-Mazzeh when P37 arrived. The witness recalled that P26 was already there since he then moved directly into the room of P26 who left for Tishreen later to work in the [redacted detail]. Upon questioning about [redacted name] P28, the witness recalled that he was in Al-Mazzeh as well living outside with his family. Rhode was interested if P37, after having received his visa on [redacted date], said goodbye to P28 before he left Syria; if he had a farewell party. P37 recounted that he stayed in Syria for only two more days and went to a dinner with P26, P28, two colleagues, [redacted names], and [redacted names]. He hesitated when he was asked if M. was also present but eventually confirmed that he was not. The last contact with M. was, according to the witness, the night when M. gave P37 a lift to the train station to pick up his visa the next day. Upon questioning, P37 recounted from conversations with M. in Germany, that M. had worked in Homs, then Damascus, and two years for the Ministry of Health. He claimed that he knew nothing about M.’s time in Homs because they had never spoken about it, and the only times they met must have been in their hometown during summer. Rhode wanted to know if P37 knew if M. worked outside in another hospital, for instance the [redacted detail] hospital, but P37 was not aware of such activities, he could however, not exclude that he worked there.

When P37 was asked to describe M.’s physical appearance and character, he gave few details and confirmed what he stated to the police, namely that M. was confident and pursuing his goals. He did not confirm that M. was attention-seeking nor that he experienced him as quick-tempered. Upon questioning about their political opinion, P37 recalled that at the time when he was still in Syria, the people were still optimistic, the Christians had hopes that the security which the Assad regime provided would persist. Regarding the position of M., according to the witness, he thought about it the night before, and maybe it came from Facebook or a conversation between them, but M. was pro-Assad. P37 did not hear M. speak about the demonstrators. P37 himself was also rather pro-Assad but he added that it was about safety for Christians, and one had to choose between Assad and ISIS, so he preferred a dictatorial regime. He further claimed that there was no or little communication with anyone outside, above all, others who testified in court, such as P26, P28, and P35 which the Judges were not convinced about. Rhode confronted him with the testimony of P35 who said that he and P37 spoke about the date of the lift, and P37 apologized that he could not remember such a conversation. Rhode commented that he cannot let go of the thought that there was a lot of background communication. P37 responded that he was not aware how important the date of the lift supposedly was but repeated that he had no memory of the conversation with P35. After Judge Rhode inquired about the military booklet of P37, a small break was issued.




Upon return from the break, P37 asked the Judges to add something. He said that his head was about to explode, he asked for understanding, but he tried to recall everything and could still not remember the conversation with P35, but the lift yes, just that they did not recently speak about it. Koller said that he would like to provide feedback and told the witness that he had difficulties comprehending that P37 recalled a rather ordinary event but not that patients were bruised. P37 explained that the lift was connected to the special event of his visa which was a cut in his life and the travel at night to Jordan was difficult to organize and expensive, which Koller eventually understood. Rhode asked several subsequent questions about M.’s personal life, but the witness did not know with certainty whether he was rich, what his parents were doing professionally or where they live, or the color of his car, but that he was driving a [redacted detail].

After these questions, the Judges projected the threatening letter and evaluated its content. The letter read in German:

“Read very carefully and comprehend!

[Redacted name], today is your lucky day, relative to the future.

I am giving you a chance to maintain your face and with it your reputation.

My offer:

You will resign from your job WITHOUT much sensation until October 31, 2023 and start somewhere else new, privately and professionally.

This is the only and the fairest offer that I am making to you.

At this point, I would not question this (see the second sentence).

I know where you are working, where you are living, where you park your car [redacted detail].

If you consider my friendly offer a planless joke, the error is on your side. I will keep a close eye on the calendar in October and you.


Judge Koller asked when P37 received the letter. P37 recalled that it was on [redacted date]. Upon questioning, he said that he became the chief physician on [redacted date] but denied that a competitive or jealous colleague may have sent it as well as an unsatisfied patient. He further denied that he connected the letter to the trial and explained that the police took the DNA and investigated the matter but since nothing happened in October and he did not receive additional threats, the police closed the file. The Prosecutor and the Plaintiff’s Counsel did not have questions, and although the Defense Team tried to investigate the letter further, they eventually dropped the topic admitting that they will not figure out who may have sent it.

The Defense had a couple additional questions regarding P37’s testimony. Counsel Bonn tried to assist the witness in calculating the time backwards, but the witness was unable to recall when he first met M. in Damascus. Further questions regarding more concrete memories about the time in Al-Mazzeh were likewise not answered with any further elaboration until Bonn also gave up. Counsel Endres made a short effort and let go with the words “It serves no purpose”. Al-Agi attempted to concretize how many days had passed between the email he received from the embassy and the departure [from Syria] and when the lift was organized. After his first reply, that only a little time had passed and he could not recall concrete details about the organization of the lift, the witness was requested to search for the exact email in his inbox which he mentioned to have. After a short break, he provided the date and time, [redacted details], and the Judges continued once more. Rhode wanted to know details about the trip and P37 recalled that it was dark, the journey was between 8 PM and 1 AM and took 4-5 hours. When asked how much time had passed between M.’s offer to give him a lift and the actual lift, P37 said that he could not remember these details, only that it was dark, but he did not remember how the lift came about, if M. offered and when, he could not remember.

M. did not have any questions and the witness was dismissed.

The proceedings were adjourned at 1:30 PM

The next trial day will be on May 14, 2024, at 10AM.


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