Higher Regional Court – Frankfurt, Germany
Trial Monitoring Summary #35
Hearing Dates: February 28, and March 2, 2023
CAUTION: Some testimony includes descriptions of torture.
Note that this summary is not a verbatim transcript of the trial; it is merely an unofficial summary of the proceedings.
Throughout this summary, [information located in brackets are notes from our trial monitor] and “information placed in quotes are statements made by the witness, judges or counsel.” The names and identifying information of witnesses have been redacted.
SJAC’s 35th trial monitoring report details days 57 and 58 of the trial of Alaa M. in Frankfurt, Germany. The Judges resumed the questioning of a former colleague of Alaa M. The witness was asked about doctors who worked in Homs Military Hospital, including a former colleague whom M. accused of being an extremist terrorist. After the Prosecutors finished their brief questioning, the Defense Counsel raised some questions. However, the Defense Team ultimately agreed to complete their questions in another session.
On the second day, the longest session to date, the two investigators, who had interrogated a previous witness, were summoned to testify in Frankfurt. The Judges compared the witness’ previous statements from the questioning and his in-court testimony. The session was marked by some translation problems which led to the replacement of the interpreter. The participants appeared exhausted toward the end of the trial day.
Day 57 – February 28, 2023
Day 57 marked the Judges' final day of questioning the witness, P12. They started by asking P12 about a meeting between the doctors and the military staff at the hospital, during which a senior doctor recommended treating the patients better. P12 explained that the meeting involved both civilian and military doctors. He further recalled that the doctor who made that recommendation later became the head of Tishreen Military Hospital. The Judges then asked P12 about other doctors who were allegedly pro-government. P12 listed some of them, but mixed-up the names of a few doctors. P12 was asked about a high-ranking military doctor who worked at the hospital [who was mentioned in previous sessions] and P12 explained what he knew about him.
After that, the Judges questioned P12 about a person who M. previously claimed was an extremist terrorist and asked him about his view on this person. P12 denied that the person was an extremist but rather was a “normal, practicing person.” The Judges asked P12 for clarification, and P12 explained that that person fasted in the month of Ramadan. Therefore, P12 described him as a “practicing person.” Satellite images were then shown depicting the Homs Military Hospital and its surroundings. P12 described the places and sections of the hospital that appeared in the photos.
Later, the Prosecutors had an opportunity to ask their questions, however their questioning was brief. Mostly, they inquired about a few details raised in previous sessions. The Presiding Judge wondered whether the witness could continue his testimony in the upcoming weeks. The witness accepted but explained that he needed approval from his chief physician at work.
Since the Defense Team planned an intensive questioning, they informed the Court that they will not be able to finalize it within half a day as proposed by the Judges. The Judges had summoned two investigators for the following session who traveled from a neighboring European state. To organize the logistics for the subsequent hearings, the Presiding Judge issued a break. Upon return, Prosecutor Zabeck expressed her frustration that the Defense Team refused to start their questions in this session to save time, even though four Counsels represent the Accused. Defense Counsel Bonn and Endres justified this by stating that they did not prepare their questions because they thought that the two witnesses would have been in court that very day.
Counsel Al-Agi decided to ask some questions, nonetheless. He started by asking about the patients’ condition in the hospital and the work routine conducted therein. He was further interested in M.’s behavior with his colleagues. Al-Agi's questions focused on a former colleague whom M. accused of being extremist. Moreover, Al-Agi referred to the criminal case against his client and wanted to know how P12 learned about it. A brief private discussion between Endres and Al-Agi, resulted in the announcement to postpone further questioning to the following session.
Day 58 – March 2, 2023
In the longest trial session to date - lasting more than eight hours - two investigators from a neighboring European country were summoned to testify. One was the officer who interrogated P11, and the other was the one who transcribed the interrogation. After a while into the testimony, the parties to the proceedings noticed that the interpreter was confusing terms, for instance, mixing up the names of the prisons that were mentioned during the session. After a private discussion between some of the parties to the case, the Presiding Judge decided to dismiss the interpreter and replace her with the Accused’s interpreter who was fluent in both languages. A break was issued pending the arrival of an alternate interpreter.
Following the official order of the right to question the witnesses, all parties to the proceedings questioned the investigator about administrative matters related to the interrogation he conducted, and about P11's statements during that interrogation. The investigator was asked how P11 answered a specific question during the interrogation and whether the investigator was able to recall the respective answer. When he was unable, he explained to the Judges that he could no longer recall the details. Whenever the investigator recalled P11's answer, the Judges compared P11’s statements that he made during the interrogation with those in his testimony. In some cases, P11’s previous statements aligned with his in-court testimony, in other cases they deviated. This continued until nearly 5:30PM until the witness appeared tired and exhausted. Even though it seemed that the parties to the proceedings still had some questions, the Judges dismissed the witness and called the second one in
The second witness appeared before the Court. The Judges explained that his questioning would be conducted expeditiously given that most of the time had been spent on questioning his colleague. The witness was asked about the administrative matters surrounding P11’s interrogation, which included matters related to the interpretation, how the minutes were transcribed, and how corrections were made, if any were necessary.