Higher Regional Court – Frankfurt, Germany
Trial Monitoring Summary #2
Hearing Date: January 25, 2022
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 of witnesses have been redacted.
Day 2 – January 25, 2022
The Defendant agreed to answer questions on the subject matter of the trial. According to M., he did not support the Syrian government and only tried to live a decent life within existing power structures. He also told the Court that he disagreed with the use of violence used by both sides during the early demonstrations. However, “the line was crossed when protestors said ‘take the Alawites to the coffins and the Christians to Beirut.’”
Questioned about his work at military hospitals in Syria, M. explained to the Court that he was unable to disobey orders from the military intelligence officers out of fear of being detained as well. Nonetheless, he said that he felt sorry for the military intelligence detainees who were taken to the Homs Military Hospital who showed signs of beating, were handcuffed, and were often blindfolded. According to M., he never tortured anyone at the Homs Military Hospital, and never conducted a surgery without sufficient anesthesia since it was not his job to take care of anesthesia and because he would have never done such a thing anyway. He also told the Court that he had never been to Branch 261 about which he allegedly only learned from the indictment.
The Judges indicated that M. provided a “theory” to the Investigating Judge at the German Federal Court of Justice, providing his own explanation of how and why the charges at heart of this trial were brought against him. M. is supposed to elaborate on this theory in Court during one of the following sessions when he will also be questioned on several different versions of his curriculum vitae.
Day 3 – January 27, 2022
The second day of the Judges’ questioning of the defendant on the subject matter focused on the time between late 2011 and early 2013. When confronted with a witness’ accusations that M. tortured and mistreated patients at Homs Military Hospital in late 2012 by using medical instruments, M. denied having been there at this time and told the Court that he “would have never tortured anyone using [medical] instruments because they are very expensive and since [he] needed a 'debt-free letter' at the end of [his] service, [he] would have never caused property damage on these instruments."
Trial Day 2 – January 25, 2022
The proceedings began at 10:04AM at the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt with 19 spectators and 16 journalists in the audience.
The Defense Counsel said they want the Court “to get to know” M. He will therefore provide statements and answer questions related to the subject matter of the case. In response to the charges against him, M. sketched his professional career, providing detailed descriptions regarding dates in which he moved cities or changed his place of work. He further stated that he was not a member of the military, but he worked at a military hospital in a civilian capacity.
Upon the Judges’ request, M. then described what his life in Syria looked like from 2011 onward and answered questions about his family situation. When questioned about his and his family’s stance towards the Syrian government, M. described that he, “like millions of others, simply went on with it to succeed in life.” However, he and his family never endorsed the government or engaged in politics. M. said he was never a member of a political party, and he condemns violence from either side. He told the Court that the demonstrations crossed a line for him when he heard about slogans against Christians and heard about civilian members of the military being injured by protestors.
When describing the situation at military hospitals in Syria from 2011 on, M. said he noted a shift in late 2011 when staff was overworked, and many injured people were taken to the hospitals from the demonstrations. Upon request by the Judges, M. also elaborated on the role of the intelligence service at military hospitals. According to M., the competencies of civilian doctors in relation to detained patients was continuously restricted, orders were always coming from the military and the military intelligence.
In terms of treatment of detained patients, M. also described instances when he witnessed detained patients being beaten by nurses and intelligence staff. He said that although he witnessed violence against detained patients and although he disagreed with them being blindfolded during treatment, he could not do anything about it. M. also confirmed to the Court that he heard about patients, including detained patients, who died, but he could not provide further information. When asked about precise charges against M. relating to Homs, M. denied all charges.
The Judges then questioned M. about discrepancies in his different CVs. M. explained that he used umbrella terms and glossed over facts to get a better job.
One of M.’s Defense Counsel explained to the Court that M.’s family living in Arab countries received threats via phone and is threatened in the press and on television. According to the counsel, M. and his Defense Counsel are being heavily insulted, and the counsel are accused of being paid by the Syrian government. The Defense Counsel denied these accusations in Court and also denied accusations that they, M., or M.’s family ever intimidated witnesses.
Proceedings were adjourned at 2:43PM.
Trial Day 3 – January 27, 2022
The proceedings began at 10:05AM at the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt (Main), Germany with 12 spectators and 8 journalists in the audience. One cameraman was filming before the start of the trial session.
The Judges continued their questioning of M. in chronological order. Amongst others, he said that it was not his decision to transfer to a civilian hospital because he was employed by the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Health would not have acknowledged his previously conducted training.
M. was then asked to describe Mazzeh Military Hospital. Among others, he said that military doctors were giving orders and the Military Intelligence Service was in charge of security issues and detained patients. According to M., detained patients also showed bruises and he witnessed security staff beating and kicking detained patients in the emergency room. M. stressed that he never witnessed a doctor beating a patient, but he heard that nurses and cleaning personnel beat people. M. further described a separate room for detained patients who were blindfolded inside the room. M. also heard screams from this room and from the basement. However, M. never dared to have a look because he was too afraid of the intelligence officers.
M. was also asked to describe his regular working day, including his work with detained patients. When asked about leaving Damascus and Mazzeh Military Hospital, M. told the Court about being shot and the generally worsening security situation in Damascus by the end of 2012 which led to his request to be transferred to another hospital in a different city.
The proceedings were adjourned at 12:21PM.
The next trial day will be held on February 3, 2022.