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Inside the Raslan Trial #3: Details on Branch 251

Inside the Raslan Trial #3: Details on Branch 251

Higher Regional Court – Koblenz, Germany
Trial Monitoring Report 3
Hearing dates of May 27, 28 & 29, 2020

>>Trial Report 4

Summary / Highlights

Trial Day 7

  • Three witnesses—a police inspector, translator and police high commissioner—testified about their questioning of Eyad Al-Gharib. The police inspector testified that Accused Al-Gharib shared details about his work in the intelligence services and Branch 251’s hierarchy, including Accused Anwar Raslan who he said was the head of investigations. During his questioning, Accused Al-Gharib said that 100 detainees arrived at Branch 251 every day. He described torture techniques imposed at the branch such as Shabh and drew a sketch illustrating where detainees who died at the branch were buried. The Defence sought to exclude Al-Gharib’s statements from the evidence because Al-Gharib was questioned as a witness and not as an Accused.

Trial Day 8

  • A police chief superintendent and a chief inspector testified about their interview with Anwar Raslan. The chief superintendent stated that Accused Raslan spoke about his work in Syria and his experiences in Germany where Accused Raslan felt as if he was being watched by the Syrian intelligence. The second witness, the chief inspector, testified that Accused Raslan shared with her multiple incidents where he claimed the intelligence services were watching him.

Trial Day 9

  • A police chief inspector testified about his questioning of Accused Raslan, where he testified that Accused Raslan spoke about his past work in the intelligence services and how he came to Germany. The Judge, Accused Raslan’s attorneys and plaintiff’s attorneys questioned the witness.
  • Proceedings were adjourned until June 3, 2020.

Trial Day 7 – May 27, 2020

There were about 11 spectators and 2 individuals from the media present. The proceedings began at 9:30 am.

Matthias Schuster, one of Eyad Al Gharib’s defence attorneys, stated that his client was not notified that he was being questioned as a suspect. Therefore, he requested that the statements Accused Al-Gharib provided to Investigators [name redacted], [name redacted], and [name redacted] be excluded as evidence.

Testimony of Manuel Deußing

The 1st witness was Manuel Deußing, a 36-year-old inspector with the criminal police who shared details about his questioning of Accused Al-Gharib.

According to Deußing, Al-Gharib stated he was born in Damascus, and that he lived there and in Muhasan (Deir ez-Zor). When Accused Al-Gharib was 20 years old, he began to work under Kamal Al-Ahmad in Division 40.

Deußing testified that Al-Gharib mentioned a specific incident where 5 people were killed near the grand mosque (الجامع الكبير) in Duma in September 2011. Al-Gharib stated that they were detaining people in Al-Khatib branch, and that someone once got hit on his head and died.

Deußing stated that Accused Al-Gharib and his family came to Germany from Athens in the beginning of 2018 through the UN.

On August 16, 2018, the Office of the Federal Prosecutor interviewed Accused Al-Gharib as a witness, one month after they began Accused Raslan’s questioning. The arrest warrant for Accused Raslan was issued three days before the Al-Gharib’s questioning began. Accused Al-Gharib was informed about his rights as a witness during his questioning; Al-Gharib was able to understand the translator and provided consent.

Accused Al-Gharib spoke to Deußing about his work background. Deußing stated that Accused Al-Gharib worked at the general intelligence and did an anti-terrorism training. He used to work in Duma and its surrounding area under the Al-Khatib Branch. After the army’s takeover of Duma, Al-Gharib was transferred to the “storming” division, and then to Zabadani. He went back to Damascus to work in the “religion” division under the command of Kamal Al-Ahmad كمال الأحمد in Branch 251. Afterwards, he was transferred to Division 40 under the command of Hafez Makhlouf حافظ مخلوف. Accused Al-Gharib then defected.

Deußing asked Accused Al-Gharib to describe the structure of Branches 251 and Division 40; he provided information and [Al-Gharib] drew some sketches [see below].

Accused Al-Gharib said to Deußing that he was in command of a checkpoint in Duma. People who were detained were transported to Branch 251 by buses. Accused Al-Gharib stated that his colleagues beat detainees on those buses.

The Judge asked Deußing about the exchange of information between the criminal police and the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). Deußing replied information is shared between entities if it is determined that an individual committed criminal offenses or if the person is a member of certain groups.

The Judge asked Deußing about the translation process during the questioning, and Deußing noted that he ensured that there was both a direct translation and reverse translation (whereby the interviewee is asked to confirm the accuracy of the translation).

The Judge asked Deußing about his impression of Accused Al-Gharib, and he said that Al-Gharib was relatively calm. When Deußing asked Accused Al-Gharib if he used violence against protesters, Deußing stated that Accused Al-Gharib said that he did not use violence against protestors and that violence against civilians was illegal.

Hannes Linke, Counsel for Accused Al-Gharib, asked Deußing why police conducted their investigation on Syrian intelligence. Deußing replied that following the release of the Caesar report and reports on torture by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the police began investigative proceedings.

Counsel Michael Böcker, one of Accused Raslan’s defence lawyers, asked Deußing to provide the exact year of the reports as Deußing was only mentioning the months. Deußing replied that he needs to refer to his files, but thinks it was in the beginning of 2018.

Counsel Böcker asked Deußing if he remembered the witness Z28 [pseudonym]. Deußing confirmed that this witness told him about the structure of Al-Khatib. Böcker asked Deußing about detention in Branch 251 and Deußing said that brutal torture occurred, but some detainees in 251 and 285 do not experience torture. Böcker asked if Deußing was questioning Al-Gharib as a witness or an accused. Deußing said as a witness, just as senior prosecutor Jasper Klinge instructed him to do.

Deußing stated that Accused Al-Gharib described Branch 251 as well as its religion and students’ divisions [division that monitored student activity/colleges]. Al-Gharib mentioned that Accused Raslan was the head of the investigation unit and that Kamal Al-Ahmad was the head of the religion division. Al-Gharib further told Deußing that Branch 251 had multiple checkpoints and that he used to work in one of them.

Referring to Accused Raslan’s questioning in July 2018, Counsel Böcker asked whether Deußing communicated with the Federal Prosecutor. Deußing affirmed and stated there was communication with senior prosecutor Jasper Klinge. Deußing called the Federal Prosecutor to ask how to proceed with the questioning, and the office told Deußing to proceed by considering Accused Al-Gharib a witness.

Accused Al-Gharib mentioned to Deußing a torture tactic (used even prior to 2011) that included pouring boiling water over detainees’ bodies. Following 2011, Accused Al-Gharib said to Deußing that there was more freedom to use other torture methods. Accused Al-Gharib added that around 100 people were detained at checkpoints on a daily basis, and he identified the location of these checkpoints using google Maps during the questioning.

Counsel Linke asked Deußing about witness 280716 [pseudonym], who was questioned before Accused Al-Gharib and who had claimed that interrogations in Branch 251 or 285 were always conducted without torture. Linke wanted to know if this meant there was a general suspicion of misconduct at 251 prior to Al-Gharib’s questioning. Deußing replied by stating that the federal prosecutor handled such matters and his job was to only conduct the questioning.

Deußing asked Accused Al-Gharib about his duties in Damascus. Accused Al-Gharib replied that he used to research and collect information from mosques, and report if the Imam or anyone else would say anything against the government.

Mr. Scharmer, a plaintiff’s attorney, asked Deußing if Accused Al-Gharib had any reaction or admonition during the questioning, but Deußing stated no.

Deußing asked Accused Al-Gharib about his experience and his reasons for leaving Syria. Accused Al-Gharib answered that the intelligence services have always committed crimes against humanity, and the government discriminates against minorities and based on religion, especially against Sunnis, who were subjected to more punishment.

Accused Al-Gharib also mentioned to Deußing that he did not say everything to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) during his interview with them, because there was not enough time.

During his questioning with Deußing, Accused Al-Gharib told Deußing that detainees were transported to the Al-Khatib branch via buses, where they were beaten and one of them got hit on his head and died. Accused Al-Gharib said that between May and June 2011, the detainees did not have enough ventilation in their cells. He added that some died and were transported to Al-Mojtahed hospital مشفى المجتهد, before their bodies were buried in mass graves.

Accused Al-Gharib provided more details on Branch 251 to Deußing. He described Branch 251’s hierarchal structure in the order as follows: Tawfiq Younis توفيق يونس, Anwar Raslan أنور رسلان, Kamal Al-Ahmad كمال الأحمد, Basel Habib باسل حبيب, Abu Ali أبو علي [i.e. “Father of Ali”] (he said that he does not know his real name). He also mentioned the number of the members in each division. Accused Al-Gharib drew sketches of Branch 251’s building, the buses’ garage, basement, stairs and the location of where the interrogations were conducted (see sketches below).

During the questioning, Deußing asked Accused Al-Gharib whether there were any personnel changes at Branch 251. Al-Gharib replied that if someone was suspected not to be loyal, they were relocated to Branch 295, where it was easier to get rid of him or have him killed.

Accused Al-Gharib also stated to Deußing that some detainees were released in April and May 2011, after they signed that they will not be joining demonstrations again.

Senior prosecutor Jasper Klinge asked Deußing to enumerate some torture methods, which the latter did. Deußing mentioned Falaqa and electric shock. Klinge asked if Deußing can explain what Shabh is and Deußing explained it [hanging a detainee above the ground by only his/her hands]. Klinge further asked if Deußing knows where the individual’s hands should be hanged during Shabh, but Deußing answered that no one told him this detail.

Andreas Schulz, a plaintiff’s attorneys, asked Deußing to explain the “detainees play.” Deußing said that Accused Al-Gharib told him that in the late 2011 (before Arab league delegates came to Syria to see the prison), some members of Al-Khatib branch pretended that they were injured due to being shot by the opposition. They were filmed in Al-Mojtahed hospital as if they were wounded, with the plan to portray to the public that they were victims of armed assaults. This was done with the permission of Tawfiq Al-Younis توفيق اليونس and under the supervision of Habib Fadel حبيب فاضل.  Furthermore, other members were acting as alleged detained armed assailants to give fabricated testimonies.

Judge Kerber then started to read the transcript of the questioning.

During the questioning, Deußing asked Accused Al-Gharib if he had relatives in Syria, and he stated that he had a sister in Syria.

Accused Al-Gharib elaborated to Deußing about the Hafez Makhlouf incident in Duma in 2011 near the grand mosque الجامع الكبير. Hafez Makhlouf came riding his “Hammer-like” Mercedes and shot on the demonstrators. The location of the grand mosque was shown on google earth via the projector in the courtroom. Accused Al-Gharib stated that he saw Makhlouf with his eyes shooting on them using an AK-47. Some of the demonstrators were killed, some detained, some wounded, and others escaped. Accused Al-Gharib heard Makhlouf saying, “The ones who love Bashar, shoot!” Accused Al-Gharib mentioned that some Alawites started shooting along with Makhlouf; he could only identify one of them: Zaydoun Barakat زيدون بركات.

Accused Al-Gharib told Deußing that beatings on the buses were not very aggressive in comparison with the beatings the detainees received when they arrived at the branch. The prisoners’ screaming and crying in theirs cells from the torture could be heard in the cafe [see the sketches below for a map of the prison].

Accused Al-Gharib described and drew a sketch (in Arabic) of the leaders of the divisions in the order as follows:

  1. Head of Branch 251: General Brigadier Tawfiq Al-Younis
    رئيس الفرع 251: العميد توفيق اليونس
  2. Head of Investigations Division: Colonel Anwar Raslan
    رئيس قسم التحقيق: العقيد أنور رسلان
  3. Head of Religions Division: Kamal Al-Ahmad
    رئيس قسم الأديان: كمال الأحمد
  4. Head of Students Division: Basel Mohammad
    رئيس قسم الطلبة: باسل محمد
  5. Head of Operations Division: Habib Fadel (Abu Ja’far).
    رئيس قسم المهمات: حبيب فاضل أبو جعفر

Sketch of a map of Branch 251 (shown via the projector):

Accused Al-Gharib mentioned to Deußing that [name redacted], an acquaintance who used to work in Branch 251, defected on October 11, 2012. Accused al-Gharib told Deußing that he visited [name redacted] once and saw the prison.

Accused Al-Gharib told Deußing that detainees were delivered to Branch 251 usually on Fridays and some of them left the prison dead.

Deußing stated that he always told Accused al-Gharib that they can take a break during the questioning whenever he wanted to.

A photo of the location of Accused Al-Gharib’s checkpoint was shown via the projector.

Accused al-Gharib said to Deußing that around 100 people were detained on a daily basis, and six members of Branch 251 along with 23 members of the presidential guards were working at his checkpoint.

Sketches of Branch 251’s layout (shown via the projector):

Deußing asked Accused Al-Gharib what he knew about Accused Raslan and Al-Gharib said that he only knew that Accused Raslan defected. Deußing asked if he saw Accused Raslan receiving or meeting detainees himself, and Al-Gharib said no. Deußing asked Accused Al-Gharib if Accused Raslan was able to punish people who were responsible for torturing and Gharib said he did not think so as Accused Raslan is a Sunni. Accused Al-Gharib denied personally witnessing any interrogation and stated that he never entered Accused Raslan’s office.

Accused Al-Gharib stated to Deußing that he once saw Tawfik Al-Younis and Hafez Makhlouf in a car in At-Tal.

Deußing asked Accused Al-Gharib if Hafez Makhlouf حافظ مخلوف used to report to Ali Mamlouk علي مملوك directly, and Al-Gharib answered no.

Sketch of where detainees in prison were buried:

Accused Al-Gharib stated to Deußing that the detainees who died in prison were transported to Najha نجها cemetery, if their corpses showed signs of torture. Otherwise, the corpses were delivered to Al-Mojtahed المجتهد hospital. He stated that this was done in May and June 2011. The corpses were transported 10 at a time from the basement mainly at night using a pick-up truck.

Deußing asked Accused Al-Gharib about Caesar [the photographer] and Al-Gharib said that Caesar was responsible for taking photos of the corpses, but that he does not know him personally.

Accused Al-Gharib told Deußing that after he defected, others defected as well and some of them went to Muhasan. [Name redacted] defected from Branch 251 and is in Stuttgart, Germany. [Name redacted] defected from Branch 295 and is in Greece. Accused Al-Gharib stated to Deußing that [name redacted] told Al-Gharib that the car used in the bombing of the Damascus general intelligence building was prepared in Branch 295.

Various photos were shown through the Court’s projector, and Deußing stated to the Court what Accused Al-Gharib told him about these photos during his questioning.

  • A photo of a corpse taken from the Caesar file was shown, with these numbers on it: 1099; 251 and 4558.
  • A photo was shown and Deußing identified the person as Ali Mamlouk علي مملوك.
  • A photo was shown and Deußing said that he does not know the individual, but Accused Al-Gharib might have seen the person in the branch.
  • A photo was shown and Deußing said that it was Rostom Ghazali رستم غزالي, but he was not sure (the photo belongs to [name redacted]).
  • A photo was shown and Deußing said that he cannot recognize the person in it.
  • A photo array of 12 individuals of similar appearance was shown during the interrogation and Accused Al-Gharib was able to recognize Raslan’s photo. The photo array was shown in the courtroom.
  • A photo of a person was shown and Accused Al-Gharib thought the person was Hafez Makhlouf, but it turned out to be someone else.

Deußing asked Accused Al-Gharib if he knows someone in Europe who committed criminal offences. Accused Al-Gharib mentioned an ISIS member called [name redacted].

Senior prosecutor Jasper Klinge asked if he heard about [name redacted], who was mentioned by Accused Raslan as potential witness. Deußing said that this person used to monitor demonstrations and got some videos of some on his phone. The UN tried to contact him; he is considered an inside-informant for them.

Dr. Patrick Kroker, plaintiff’s representative, asked if Deußing asked Accused Al-Gharib about [name redacted] and [name redacted]. Deußing said that one witness mentioned [one of the redacted names].

Counsel Kroker asked if Deußing asked Accused Al-Gharib about [name redacted], who is in Greece. Deußing said that he tried to ask about the important people only. Therefore, he did not bring up [name redacted], because he lives outside Germany.

Judge Kerber asked Deußing about his impression after interrogating Accused Al-Gharib. Deußing replied that Al-Gharib was cooperative and answered questions, and there were no discrepancies with what Accused Al-Gharib stated to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), nor were there any contradictory statements that conflict with Accused Raslan’s statement.

Testimony of Sami Koca

The 2nd witness was Sami Koca, a 59-year-old translator from Germersheim.

The Judge asked Koca if there were difficulties understanding what was said during Accused Al-Gharib’s questioning with inspector Deußing. He stated that Deußing asked Accused Al-Gharib during the questioning if he had difficulty understanding, and Al-Gharib replied no. Koca said that Al-Gharib drew the sketches in Arabic and Koca later translated them.

Testimony of Alexander Frey

The 3rd witness was Alexander Frey, a 32-year-old high commissioner at the Federal Criminal Police Office in Meckenheim.

Frey stated that inspector Deußing conducted the questioning while he took notes. Accused Al-Gharib told Frey and Deußing that he was a commander of a checkpoint and that he detained people. Frey stated that Deußing told Accused Al-Gharib that they needed a break and called the federal prosecutor’s office.

Counsel Matthias Schuster, one of Accused Al-Gharib’s attorneys, asked Frey when he began to work on Al-Gharib’s case. Frey said since March 1, 2019.

The proceedings were adjourned at 2:30 p.m.

Trial Day 8 – May 28, 2020

There were about 13 spectators and 2 individuals from the media present. The proceedings began at 9:30 am.

Chief Judge Dr. Anne Kerber stated that Mr. Himmler, a translator at Mr Björn Schmidt’s interview with Accused Raslan, could not appear because he was sick. Chief Judge Kerber added that Himmler might not be called to testify at a later date.

Testimony of Björn Schmidt

The 1st witness was Björn Schmidt, a 52-year-old chief superintendent at LKA (State Criminal Police Office) in Berlin, who spoke about his interview with Accused Raslan.

Schmidt said that he saw Accused Raslan’s criminal complaint (originally mentioned in Trial Day 6) and its translated version by Petra Becker.

Schmidt is responsible for investigating people who have backgrounds in military or intelligence services. Schmidt pointed out that that he was interrogating Accused Raslan as a witness.

Schmidt asked Accused Raslan about the nature of his work. Accused Raslan told Schmidt that he used to work at the intelligence services and that he has a legal background. Accused Raslan said he completed his education with the police, and graduated top three in his class. Raslan said he used to work in Branches 251 and 285 and was mainly responsible for the Ar-Rawda الروضة and Al-Maalki المالكي neighborhoods in Damascus (they were locations of embassies).

According to Schmidt, Accused Raslan conducted surveillance of Islamic organizations until 2007, and was responsible for taking care of members of Iranian Intelligence services when they visited Damascus. For a short period of time (until 2008), Accused Raslan was responsible for the security of ministries and external affairs. Between 2002 and 2008, Accused Raslan used to investigate organisations like Al-Qa’eda since they began existing in Iraq.

Accused Raslan said to Schmidt that he faced pressure from his family, the Al-Houla massacre and the regime. His wife called him once and asked how he could work with the regime.

The witness testified that Accused Raslan fled to Jordan with his family and hid there until 2014. Because Accused Raslan fled, his name was shared with border crossings in case they were able to catch him. Accused Raslan told Schmidt that if he had been caught, the punishment surely would have been death.

The Judge told Schmidt that there was an opposition figure who sent an English translated version of Accused Raslan’s C.V. to the German Embassy. The Judge asked if Schmidt remembered the name of this figure. Schmidt said the name was [redacted].

According to the witness, Accused Raslan said that Al-Jazeera conducted interviews with him in Jordan in 2014. He also mentioned that he worked with the opposition and was a delegate for them.

Accused Raslan told Schmidt that he grew suspicious about one of his acquaintances, since the individual was asking Raslan many questions.

Schmidt mentioned Accused Raslan’s letter to the police of suspicious activities, originally mentioned in Trial Day 6. Raslan told Schmidt about events that made him nervous, including a visit to the doctor where the doctor asked Raslan about his work in Syria and asked to take a photo with him.  In another appointment, Accused Raslan was in the waiting room and looked through the window to find two persons, whom he suspected to be Syrians. The two persons drove away with a car when he got out from the clinic. Accused Raslan mentioned an incident that involved two individuals following him from the doctor’s clinic into the S-Bahn [city train].  These individuals were wearing headphones and Accused Raslan was sure that they were member of the intelligence services.

Schmidt said that he does not believe that the Syrian embassy is capable of organizing surveillance operations and that such procedures are unlikely and improbable.

Accused Raslan said to Schmidt that during his training at the police, he was taught to differentiate people based on their ethnic and geographical background through methods such as identifying their face and dialects.

Schmidt asked Accused Raslan if he was in contact with external intelligence services. Raslan replied that he shared information with the Syrian opposition, Jordanian intelligence and American intelligence after he defected. Accused Raslan added that he had data and information on his old laptop, but his children broke his laptop in Jordan, and thus, he lost this data. However, Schmidt did not find this believable and plausible.

The Judge asked Schmidt if he communicated with others regarding the case, and Schmidt stated he was in contact with BKA (Federal Criminal Police Office), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Petra Becker [a witness who testified on Trial Day 6].

Schmidt said Accused Raslan appeared to be unsatisfied during the questioning, because Schmidt did not seem to believe him. Schmidt found it strange that Accused Raslan waited and did not report the incident that involved two individuals monitoring him immediately to the police, as Raslan could have identified the vehicle license plate.

The Judge asked Schmidt about his view on Accused Raslan’s statement about being followed, and Schmidt said that he was skeptical.

The Judge asked Schmidt who specifically he was in contact with at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Schmidt said with Mrs Drechsler.

The Judge asked Schmidt if he knows if Accused Raslan had a role within the opposition. Schmidt said yes, but stated he did not recall exactly what Raslan’s role was.

Schmidt stated that people who work in intelligence are generally skeptical and think that they are being watched. Schmidt believed Accused Raslan was overreacting to the situation.

Schmidt said that the case was forwarded to the BKA (Federal Criminal Police Office).

The Judge asked Schimdt his opinion of the translator at the questioning, and Schmidt said that the translator was very good and the translator studied Arabic since the DDR era (German Democratic Republic).

Schmidt stated that he did not understand why Petra Becker, a witness called on Trial Day 6 and a representative of the SWP (German Institute for International and Security Affairs) was involved with Accused Raslan. The Judge asked Schmidt if he had asked Becker about this and Schmidt said no.

Dr. Anna Oehmichen, a plaintiff’s attorney, said that she could not find the part that mentioned that the translator studied in the DDR in the transcript. Judge Kerber gave the page number to Oehmichen.

Testimony of Anja Krüger

The 2nd witness was Anja Krüger, a 30-year-old chief inspector at the Berlin police (Directorate 5), who testified about her interview with Accused Raslan.

Krüger said that Accused Raslan mentioned multiple incidents where he claimed the intelligence services were watching him (these incidents were the same incidents mentioned above by Björn Schmidt) and said they were a threat to him. Accused Raslan said he was under pressure as he had family problems. Krüger said that Accused Raslan was anxious and afraid.

The proceedings were adjourned at 11:00 a.m.

The Syria Campaign and Families for Freedom attended the trial. At page 12 photos of their demonstration outside the Courthouse can be found:

Trial Day 9 – May 29, 2020

There were about 11 spectators and 2 individuals from the media present. The proceedings began at 9:30 am.

Testimony of Martin Holtzky

The 1st witness was Martin Holtzky, a 51-year-old chief inspector at the LKA (State Criminal Police Office) Baden-Württemberg, who questioned Accused Raslan. Specifically, Holtzky called Accused Raslan as a witness following an interrogation about incidents that occurred during demonstrations in Hama.

Holtzky explained that when a witness is called, his rights and the official procedures are explained to him. He stated that Accused Raslan agreed to take part in the questioning.

Judge Kerber asked Holtzky about Accused Raslan’s personal life. Holtzky said that Raslan said he had 7 children—6 of whom are in Germany. Raslan said he studied law and after his graduation, he joined the police before working in the intelligence services in Branches 251 and 285.

Judge Kerber asked if Accused Raslan mentioned cities that he worked in. Holtzky said that Raslan said that he worked in multiple locations including Damascus and Tartous; Raslan specifically stated that he did not work in Hama.

Holtzky asked Accused Raslan if he has any information about [name redacted] and Branch 320 but Raslan said no.

Holtzky said that Accused Raslan left Syria in 2012 due to the family pressures and the Al-Houla massacre. Raslan stayed in Jordan until 2014, and then went to Germany with a visa issued by the German authorities. Holtzky did not recall the name of the opposition figure who helped Raslan in the visa process. Judge Kerber asked Holtzky if the name [redacted] rings a bell, and Holtzky affirmed that it could be the name of that previously mentioned opposition figure.

According to Holtzky, Accused Raslan stated that there were criminal offences committed in the branches. Raslan added that some detainees died, were transported to the hospital and were photographed.

Holtzky asked Accused Raslan about his tasks in the branch. Raslan said that he was responsible for the interrogation, which Raslan said sometimes was conducted harshly and other times, peacefully. Accused Raslan said that one cannot be courteous all the time in his past position. Accused Raslan claimed that he did not use violence, did not order violence to be used, and that he was trying to avoid violence.

Holtzky testified that Accused Raslan requested to be transferred to the Ministry of Interior.

Holtzky testified that Accused Raslan claimed that no weapons were used to supress demonstrations before August 2011, aside from batons and tear gas. But afterwards, presidential guards used machine-guns.

Holtzky said that Accused Raslan was communicative, willing to help and had strong knowledge about people, religions and locations in Syria. Holtzky added there were no difficulties in communication. Reverse translation was provided to Accused Raslan. Afterwards, the case was forwarded to the BKA (Federal Criminal Police Office).

The Judge asked Holtzky if he asked Accused Raslan whether Maher Al-Assad and Hafez Makhlouf had any relation to Branch 251. Holtzky said no [he did not ask Raslan].

Counsel Michael Böcker, one of Accused Raslan’s defence lawyers, stated that travelling to Stuttgart (where he had his questioning with Holtzky) was inconvenient to his client.

Arne Bodenstein, one of Accused Raslan’s defence lawyers, told Holtzky that after Raslan mentioned that corpses were transported from prison, Holtzky should not have asked follow-up questions as Raslan was being interrogated as a witness [and not as a suspect].

Dr. Oehmichen, a plaintiff’s attorney, said that Holtzky mentioned once that 750 corpses were brought to the prison. However, the questioning’s transcript stated that 750 individuals were brought alive, but some of them were corpses.

Counsel Manuel Reiger, a plaintiff’s attorney asked Holtzky if he checked the authenticity of Accused Raslan’s statement with other witnesses. Holtzky affirmed that he did corroborate key points in Raslan’s statement.

The proceedings were adjourned at 10:30 a.m. The next trial will be on June 3, 2020 at 9:30 a.m.

A full PDF of the report can be found here.

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