Higher Regional Court – Frankfurt, Germany
Trial Monitoring Summary #41
Hearing Dates: May 02 & 04, 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 41st trial monitoring report details days 69 and 70 of the trial of Alaa M. in Frankfurt, Germany. The first day of this week was dedicated to completing the interrogation of a former colleague of M. who was a doctor at Homs Military Hospital. The witness described unloading corpses from trucks in the hospital’s courtyard, noting that the corpses belonged to people of all ages, including children. Subsequently, video clips allegedly filmed inside the hospital were shown in court. The witness tried to explain their content and identify the buildings that appeared in the clips. After that, the Judges asked about the media outlets and human rights organizations that had contacted the witness who in turn outlined the content of the conversations with them.
Since the Prosecutors and Plaintiffs' Counsels did not have any questions, Defense Counsel proceeded. The Presiding Judge was upset with the disorganization that one of the Defense Counsels showed during his questioning. Thus, the Presiding Judge asked him to discuss with his colleagues who sometimes spoon fed him questions. After the questioning was completed, the Presiding Judge announced the end of the witness's testimony.
The next trial day, a linguistic expert assessed the translation of the police questioning transcript of one of the former witnesses. Later, the Accused made a statement denying the allegations that circulated in Arabic media about him frequenting the Military Security Prison and having an office there. He stressed that he was a civilian, not a military doctor, and that he had never set foot in that prison.
Day 69 – May 02, 2023
The Court resumed the questioning of witness P15, M.'s former colleague, who worked at Homs Military Hospital. The Judges started the session by asking in-depth questions about the incident that was addressed at the end of the previous session. They asked P15 for details of unloading the corpses from trucks in the hospital’s courtyard. The Judges also asked P15 to accurately describe those trucks and the procedure for unloading them. In response to the Judges' question, P15 explained that the bodies belonged to people of both sexes, males and females, of all ages, including children. P15 described the smell that had prevailed in the hospital while the trucks were there.
Subsequently, videos allegedly filmed inside Homs Military Hospital were shown in court. Trucks and corpses lying on the ground appeared in these videos. P15 elaborated on what he could recognize in these videos, and identified the hospital's buildings, departments and gates that he recalled. After the Judges finished examining the videos, they asked whether P15 had heard about interrogating and torturing detainees at the hospital prison. P15 confirmed and recounted a situation when he heard the prison director talking to someone on the phone and bragging about torturing detainees and extracting confessions from them.
In the ensuing questioning, the Judges asked about the media outlets and NGOs that contacted the witness. P15 stated that after Al-Jazeera published its documentary “The Search for Assad's Executioners,” people from the Caesar Files Group, the “Syria Accountability Center,” and the “Syrian Center for Human Rights” contacted him, before the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIIM) contacted him for an official interview. The Judges asked whether certain parties had given him instructions or advice on what to state or testify. P15 denied and explained to the Judges that their contact was merely to find out whether he was interested in testifying in court and whether he needed help to reach out to the court. After that, the Judges asked P15 if one of those parties had recommended a specific Syrian attorney to him. P15 confirmed and explained that some party recommended that attorney to him in case he was interested in her representing him in court. The Presiding Judge announced the end of the Judges’ questioning and that the Prosecution Team’s questioning would follow after the break. However, the Prosecutors, followed by the Plaintiffs' Counsels, stated that they had no questions.
After the break, Defense Counsel Endres stated that neither he nor his two colleagues, Al-Agi and Adouvi, had any questions, but that his colleague Bonn had a few questions. Bonn started by asking about the incident of a prisoner breaking from the hospital prison. Bonn then asked detailed questions about the surgery that M. allegedly performed on a patient without anesthesia. Bonn wanted to know about the operations team and the individuals comprising it. P15 answered indicating the role and responsibility of each individual. In spite of stating that he did not have questions for the witness, Counsel Al-Agi retraced and declared that he wanted to raise some questions. Al-Agi started questioning P15 by inquiring about a specific person [forthcoming witness] and whether P15 talked with him about M., and whether this person was a member of the group that P15 trusted. The Presiding Judge rectified Al-Agi’s question and demanded that he ask open-ended questions. P15 replied that he knew that person, yet P15 did not recall speaking with him about M. Moreover, P15 did not recall whether that person was pro- or anti-regime. Al-Agi then wanted to know how P15 left the hospital and whether he obtained a document stating his dismissal. Al-Agi requested that the Judges search the case file for a document. The document was presented in court which stated that M. was transferred from one hospital to another. After P15 brought to Al-Agi’s attention that this was a transfer document while the document that was issued against him was a dismissal decision, P15 explained how he learned about the decision that he was dismissed.
Irritated by Al-Agi’s questions, Presiding Judge Koller interrupted him and said that Al-Agi did not know what he wanted to ask about, even though it was obvious that Enders and Bonn were whispering to Al-Agi and directing him what to ask. Koller issued a break and asked Al-Agi to discuss with both his colleagues the questions he wanted to raise. After the break, the Defense Team stated that it did not have any more questions. Hereupon, the Presiding Judge concluded P15's questioning and thanked him on behalf of the Court before he was dismissed.
Day 70 – May 04, 2023
On this trial day, the French language transcript of P11's questioning by the French Police was shown in court and a linguistic expert appeared in court to read his German translation of the transcript. The linguistic expert highlighted some subtle differences between his translation and the official translation from the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). After examining the translation of the questioning transcript, M. expressed his wish to give a statement.
M. started by recalling what had been published about him in the media, describing him as a doctor who frequented, on a daily basis, the prison in the Military Security Branch, where his office was located. M. denied this, explaining that he was a civilian doctor and paid money to be exempted from the mandatory military service, adding that he did not have an office, neither in Syria nor in Germany, as he was a resident doctor, not a specialist. M. wondered how he could have an office in the Military Security Branch, even though he did not step foot there during his entire life - according to his claims. M. said that he was described as one of Al-Assad’s executioners in the Al-Jazeera film that showed graphic scenes, which he did not witness during his time at Homs Military Hospital. According to M., the film featured his two former colleagues who falsely accused and slandered him. M. added that the Arabic media outlets focused on him after his pictures spread online, only because he worked in that hospital, and after that, he was held responsible for everything that happened there. M. said that there are many Syrians who were tortured in Syria or had problems with Al-Assad, who were willing to do anything to condemn him, including Anwar Al-Bunni and Nahla Othman, as they deem his conviction a conviction of the Syrian regime. M. claimed that these people do not differentiate between the perpetrator and the victim, as they were looking for anyone who worked with the regime; they wanted a scapegoat and found him. Addressing the Presiding Judge, M. concluded his statement by ensuring him that there would have been no case against him and he would not have found witnesses to testify against him or recognize him, had his pictures not been published in the media, because these plaintiffs and witnesses had never met him, nor had he ever met them in his life. M. referred to P15 who concluded his testimony by saying that this trial is of interest to many Syrians. M. asked, "Why is it important to them? For revenge and vengeance?"