Inside the Raslan Trial: “I know this man…but he is not Abu Ghadab”

Inside the Raslan Trial: “I know this man…but he is not Abu Ghadab”

Illustration by Rachel Ma

TRIAL OF ANWAR RASLAN and EYAD AL GHARIB

Higher Regional Court – Koblenz, Germany

Trial Monitoring Report 23

Hearing dates of January 6 and 7, 2021

To read this report as a PDF, click here.

 

CAUTION: Some testimony includes descriptions of torture. 

Summary / Highlights:1

Trial Day 53 – January 6, 2021

  • P25, a 30-year-old, who was detained in Al-Khatib and the state security branch, testified about how security forces stormed his village and indiscriminately arrested people they claimed participated in demonstrations. P25 was a student and had never attended a demonstration. The witness described Abu Ghadab as a tall man whom all the detainees feared. When asked if he recognized anyone from the defense, P25 said Eyad A. looked familiar, but it was Raslan that P25 said he recognized and knew. He said Raslan was not Abu Ghadab, but that he was confident that he knew Raslan. P25 admitted that he had seen both defendents pictures onlineP25 described a child who was ten to thirteen years old who was detained in his cell in Al-Khatib and suffering from a bullet lodged in his leg/foot. P25 was transferred to the state security branch where he became ill and was forced to stand under cold water as punishment. He provided three sketches showing the layout of Al-Khatib and the interrogation room. 

Trial Day 54 – January 7, 2021

  • Christian Knappmann, a 37-year-old police officer at the Meckenheim Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), answered questions regarding P14 (SJAC Trial Report 12). P14 was questioned by the BKA in 2019. Knappmann and a colleague used satellite imaging to discover the coordinates of the Al-Qutayfa القطيفة cemetery. The satellite imagery from 2011-2012 was missing and the earliest the BKA could find dated to 2014. P14 testified that there were about 1.7 million people buried in mass grave trenches in the cemetery. Knappman could not evaluate this assertion as the depth of the trenches is unknown and it would depend on how the bodies were buried.  

Trial Day 53 – January 6, 2021

The proceedings began at 9:30 a.m. There were two spectators and two individuals from the media present.

Plaintiff Counsel Dr. Patrick Kroker was not in attendance. Deputy Plaintiff Counsel Charlotte Foerster-Baldenius appeared for Plaintiff Counsel Khubaib Ali Mohammad.

Witness P25 sat at the witness panel accompanied by his attorney Andreas Schulz.

Judge Kerber asked whether P25 was going to take off his mask. P25 confirmed. Instructions were read to P25 and he was informed about his rights as a witness.

Testimony of P25, [Name redacted]

Judge Kerber asked P25 for his name. P25 said [name redacted]. Judge Kerber then asked P25 for his age. P25 replied, 30-years-old.

Judge Kerber asked where P25 lives. Schulz said that would rather not share that information.

Judge Kerber asked P25 about his job. P25 said that he is a salesman.

Judge Kerber asked P25 if he is related to the accused by blood or marriage. P25 said no, he is not.

Judge Kerber said that P25 was detained in Syria and asked him to explain his experience and discuss when and how he was detained. P25 said in the beginning, he was at home in [information redacted] area. One time, there was a storming of the village and the security forces wanted to take [detain] all of the people. P25 was a student and was not afraid to go to [pass through] the checkpoint. People were telling him that he could escape if they [e.g. the security forces] came to take [detain] him. P25 told them that he had nothing to be afraid of and that he passes through/by a hundred checkpoints every day. When the storming came to the house, they, unfortunately, took [detained] P25. The checkpoint guard asked him what his name was and he gave the guard his ID card. The guard told him that he was wanted. P25’s family is big with around 2000 to 3000 individuals. He has a common name and everyone gives their children the name, [name redacted]. They put P25 on the bus and he sat in the last seat in the back.  They flipped their [the detainees’] t-shirts over their heads, so the detainees could not see anything. The security forces took the detainees to the detention center and started to beat them. The forces were military people and one person hit P25 with a helmet until he lost consciousness. A person (one of P25’s neighbors) told him to get up and woke him up.

P25 continued describing that they [the security forces] took the detainees to a place where they stopped for a bit and then proceeded to Al-Khatib. Many things happened, but there are many things that P25 said he does not like to remember. After that, they got off [the bus] in Al-Khatib and stood for a while as the forces tortured them. P25 remembers that they remained standing and their hands were hurting. There was a person who was P25’s neighbor and he was a مسؤول [roughly translated as “a man who has responsibilities” or “Big official”] in the party [It is common to call Al-Ba’th party, just the “party”] and despite that, they detained him and were torturing him. They took the detainees inside, downstairs (“I remember stairs”). As P25 was going downstairs, someone hit him with an intense slap on the face. The detainees had to take everything off. One had to stand up and sit down [squat] to check if they were hiding anything and then they were taken downstairs. P25 does not remember in which room he and the others were detained. He wore his clothes inside and his legs were extended, as he did not know the rules. They were in a room with many people, P25 cannot forget it. There was a small toilet with no door. His legs were extended and someone called Abu Ghadab أبو غضب (“I do not know his real name”) entered. He asked P25 why he was extending his legs and told him to take off his t-shirt and he whipped P25 (“I do not know”) [This last quote was directed to the translator, saying “I do not know what you call this”]. Then the detainees waited for the interrogations. They used to hear sounds of torturing and people screaming “leave me!” and “for God’s sake!.” The nature of the prison was terrifying. The detainees could not differentiate day from night. They heard sounds of torture and people were coming inside to us [entering the prison]. At that time, an injured [The word P25 used “متصاوب/اتصاوب” can be commonly used to refer to “shot.” He used the same term throughout the testimony] child entered (he was injured by the army). They [P25 meant “the child’s family”, but “they” was mistranslated as the Intelligence Services. This was not explained until the end.] wanted to take him to Tripoli [for treatment]. The child’s leg was injured and he was crying. They used to enter [the cell] and torture him. There was a 70-year-old man who had to take a pill for blood pressure. They used to hit his face with it [fling the pill at his face].

P25 was taken to the interrogation upstairs (using the stairs). P25, first, did not remember if his t-shirt was flipped over his head or if it was a blindfold. But then he remembered that it was a blindfold: he used to be able to see from underneath it. He entered a room where there was a table and behind it was an interrogator. To the right, someone was sitting with a stick and was doing this with his hand [P25 imitated when one holds a stick with one hand and hit his other hand with it lightly in a threatening manner as if they will strike someone]. He [most likely the interrogator] began by saying that P25 should confess. P25 did nothing. He does not remember what happened, but he [maybe the one with the stick] hit P25 on his leg/foot. To this day, it still hurts P25 and there is still a mark. After that, P25 confessed to something he did not do (demonstrations). He did not participate in demonstrations; he was a student. But P25 said he does not forget a tall man who was torturing and insulting him and the detainees with the worst insults. His name was Abu Ghadab and Memati (a character in a Turkish series. This is what people told P25, as he did not watch the series). When the prison guards used to come (there were two and they alternated), and when it was Abu Ghadab, P25 and the other detainees had a lot of fear/were fearful. They had to run to the wall (P25 did not remember if they had to take off [their clothes]). After that P25 stayed [there] for ten days (He said his memory is distorted, but previously said it was more than 10 days). The detainees did not differentiate day from night and when a new detainee came, they used to ask him about the time.

One day the prison guard came and called their names and P25 and the other detainees thought that they would be released. The guards took P25 and the others to a bus. Their hands were tied with plastic wires and they were taken to another prison: state security. P25 and the other detainees were fearful and horrified because they did not know anything about this branch. When they entered [the branch], the guards shaved the detainees’ heads, had them take off their clothes, and the detainees had to take a shower with very cold water. As a result, P25 had a severe flu and was unable to eat and drink. He knocked on the door [maybe to ask for medicine/help], and the guard came in [to the cell] and hit P25 on his abdomen and told him to take off his clothes and stand under cold water. P25 had a short break and then had to stand again under the cold water. To P25, it was easier than Al-Khatib. There were the same events: there was a single interrogation and the interrogator was good [The interrogator did not beat P25]. P25 stated that he forgot to say that in Al-Khatib, they had to sign blank papers (P25 corrected himself, “I do not remember if it was in Al-Khatib or the state security”). After the detention in the state security prison (P25 did not remember how long he stayed there), P25 and the other detainees were taken to court. They were put in jail with people who killed and stole. Before that, they took the detainees to a court and then took them on a bus to this [jail with criminals]. The judge was good. He told P25, “You are not one of them” and asked him if he participated in demonstrations. P25 told him no. The judge asked P25 why and he told him he did not demonstrate because he was fearful. They stamped P25’s hand. He was released and went back home.

Judge Kerber asked P25 when he was detained. P25 said he remembers a big incident where someone (he did not want to say who) was injured. It was February 4th.

Judge Kerber asked P25 for the year. P25 replied that it was 2012.

Judge Kerber asked P25 how he knew that it was Al-Khatib. P25 said he did not know, but the people who were [detained] before and after him said that the process was the same: they take you to Al-Khatib, then state security. P25 knew that when he was released (that one goes automatically to Al-Khatib, then state security).

Judge Kerber asked P25 how he knew it was state security. P25 said that he is a bit confused/his mind is distorted. He remembers that there was a door that they went through/entered (He used to study French in Al-Mazzeh المزة university [which is located close to Kafar Souseh, where the state security is located]). When they entered the state security branch, they saw many things. It was composed of squares/yards and they took the detainees inside with the bus. After he was released, P25 asked about it and the people said that it is Al-Khatib then state security [one is detained first in Al-Khatib then transferred to state security].

Judge Kerber asked P25 to describe Abu Ghadab. P25 replied that he cannot forget him. Abu Ghadab was tall and thin. His accent was not from Damascus (perhaps from Deir ez-Zor دير الزور or that area).

Judge Kerber asked P25 approximately how tall Abu Ghadab was. P25 said he was his height or taller. P25 was sitting and looking upwards and therefore, he might have felt that he was tall.

Judge Kerber asked P25 to look to his right and asked if he could recognize anybody from the accused. P25 said that the person in the back [Eyad A.] – “his face is familiar, but…” [“hmm”]. P25 said, “I saw this man [Raslan]: I know [recognize] his [facial] features, but he is not Abu Ghadab.” They had shown P25 photos during the police questioning, so, he told them that he had seen the one who is sitting in the front [Raslan]. P25 said that, as a Muslim, he cannot say something that he did not see. Honestly, when he returned home, P25 saw photos on the internet. P25 searched [researched] and knew that he chose right, but as a name…

Judge Kerber interrupted asking what was right. P25 said the right thing is that it is not him, but he is in P25’s mind for years. But it was not him who hit P25 the first time.

Judge Kerber asked if he was not Abu Ghadab. P25 said he thinks that it is not him. Abu Ghadab’s hair is black and he cannot forget his height. But this person [Raslan] is familiar.

Judge Kerber asked P25 about the child that they wanted to take to Tripoli. P25 said he was detained and they put a child whom he did not know with P25 and the detainees. He [the child] was crying a lot and P25 asked what was wrong with him. He said that a bullet was inside the bone in his leg/foot. He said that he was injured and wanted to go to Tripoli and they caught him on the way. They wanted to punish P25 because he sympathized with the child. The boy was crying and the guards used to enter/come inside [the cell] (P25 does not know if they beat him), but they used to tell him that if he did not shut up, then they would slaughter him.

Judge Kerber asked how old the child was. P25 said 10 to 12, maybe 13.

Judge Kerber asked P25 if he saw dead bodies in detention. P25 said he does not remember that he saw any in prison, but there was a case of someone who offered [members of the] Free Syrian Army tea. They took photos of him and brought him to the detainees. They tortured him so severely that his t-shirt got stuck in his flesh and P25 and the detainees were not able to get the t-shirt off him. He was crying from [because of] the pain. Not to mention the extensive sounds of torture.

Judge Kerber asked if P25 wanted a break. P25 replied, “all good now” [no].

Judge Wiedner recalled that P25 said that the child was shot in demonstrations and asked how P25 knew that. P25 said that at that time, there were demonstrations. He did not ask him, but the conclusion/deduction was such when one enters like that.

Judge Kerber asked if that was an assumption. P25 said that at that time, there were only demonstrations. He does not remember whether he asked him or not (P25 forgot with time). P25 said he does not remember all the details.

Judge Wiedner assured P25 that it is understandable as it was eight years ago and asked if they also knew that the child was injured. P25 said he did not understand the question.

Judge Wiedner asked P25 if the prison guards knew about the child’s injury. P25 said yes, they knew. He does not remember if he saw it, but the child said that the bullet was in the bone and P25 remembers that when he used to move his leg/foot, he cried a lot. At that time, the child’s older brother used to pay money and come inside [P25 did not elaborate if this was into the cell or the Branch] to see him [the child] and then go out. When P25 got out of Al-Khatib, he [the child] remained in Al-Khatib.

Judge Wiedner asked if P25 knew what happened with the child. P25 said no, he got out before him. But he remembers that they [the child’s family] wanted to smuggle him to Tripoli, but the smuggler was the one who handed him in. P25 said he does not know [but wonders] if the smuggler was from the police.

Judge Wiedner asked if the child received help. P25 said they did not offer help, only if someone had blood pressure or something, but no one offered him help. P25 does not remember if it was the child or an elderly person, but he remembers that they were stinging/piercing him with the needle [giving the injection violently]. P25 remembers the injection and that they used to toss/fling the pills.

Judge Wiedner asked if P25 himself asked for help for his injury. P25 said no, he did not, because he was afraid to ask. The fear outweighed the pain.

Judge Wiedner asked what P25 feared. P25 answered that Abu Ghadab was terrifying and tortured people. P25 did not know what he would do. Before the prison [detention], people were talking about electricity and fingernails extraction.

Judge Wiedner said that many people were detained and asked P25 if there was a reason for the detention. P25 said that people used to do many demonstrations in their village. One time there were demonstrations for freedom and they [the regime/security forces] wanted to quell the demonstrations. They did not want anyone to express opinions. And P25 was detained for no reason. He used to go to the university and they used to take his ID card and do a check and there was nothing against P25.

Judge Wiedner asked if the detentions were indiscriminate or if it was for certain people. P25 said yes, it was indiscriminate.

Judge Wiedner said that P25 mentioned an incident that happened by the police. P25 said their house is big. The police entered and his little brother had a money box [piggy bank]. One of the police officers hid it or took it (many things happened that P25 said he does not remember), but he does not forget the way they entered and the bus.

Judge Wiedner recalled that P25 said that they were military people with uniforms. P25 confirmed. They were military uniforms, but in Al-Khatib, they were wearing civilian clothes [were plain-clothed] like the detainees.

Judge Wiedner asked about the trip on the bus to the branch and asked what happened and how long it lasted. P25 said while they were sitting on the bus, there was a military person who had a knife or a rifle with a bayonet and hit him [a person] on his leg, but he was a [P25 used same as the word mentioned earlier above “مسؤول,”, meaning something like a big official/figure] in the [Al-Ba’ath] party in the village. P25 was hit with the helmet on his back and then on his head.

Judge Wiedner asked if P25 lost consciousness. P25 said yes and his neighbor woke him up. He remembers that it was very painful being hit with metal on his head.

Judge Wiedner quoted from the transcript of P25’s police questioning saying, “We were taken in the bus for an hour and were tortured. A person next to me was stabbed with a knife and I was hit with a helmet. They were punching and kicking us.” Judge Wiedner asked P25 if that was correct. P25 said yes it matched what he had said, but the one with the knife was not next to him, but maybe behind him. P25 does not remember if he was on the floor or behind him. But he [the military person] asked him “Who hit [stabbed] you?.” He [the person that was stabbed] told him “you.” He [the military person] told him “Careful what you say.” He had to say that he wounded himself.

Judge Wiedner asked if other people were hit before going to the cell. P25 said, yes. He remembers that they were beating people and transporting boxes of arms/weapons (they sounded different from food boxes). He does not remember if they hit him while he was standing, but they slapped him once while he was going downstairs. However, among them was a mosque Imam, he was also beaten. Also, the chief of the [Al-Ba’ath] party [the same individual P25 mentioned earlier] was slapped once. P25 remembers that because it was something big [a big deal/ surprising] to the detainees. He was surprised because he supposed that they should be respected by the country [government].

Judge Wiedner asked if all the people on the bus were beaten and taken inside. P25 said he does not remember. He was blindfolded (it was prohibited to look around), but he remembers that all of them got off/went downstairs [The same term has both meanings and it was unclear which one P25 meant].

Judge Wiedner recalled that P25 said that there were more than 40 people in the square/yard. P25 said he does not remember and he was not able to see. However, on the bus, there were many, maybe more than 40. Perhaps after a while, he forgot some details. He used to remember how long he was detained, but now he has forgotten.

Judge Wiedner stated that P25 was transported to Al-Khatib on February 4, 2012. Judge Wiedner asked P25 how long he stayed in detention. P25 said he remembers that it was more than 10 days. Maybe 15, but he cannot remember.

Judge Wiedner asked P25 where he was taken, for example, upstairs, downstairs. P25 said the first time [when P25 arrived at the branch] they took him downstairs. When they interrogated P25, they took him upstairs.

Judge Wiedner asked if P25 was frisked. P25 confirmed. They had to take off their clothes. He remembers that one person, who was brought in with them, had cannabis with him. They told him that he was a respectful man who does not participate in demonstrations and they took him to another criminal police station.

Judge Wiedner quoted the police questioning’s transcript reiterating what P25 said. P25 said they do not want people to think/ponder. He was working to pay for his college. People were poor. They wanted people to stay ignorant and not ask about politics.

Judge Wiedner recalled that P25 said that it was a basement and asked if it was underground. P25 answered that he went down some stairs.

Judge Wiedner asked P25 to describe the cell. P25 said when he entered the room [cell], perhaps it was 3x3m or 3x4m (he did not measure it). The toilet was in the corner and had no door. P25 had no place and sat near the toilet. There were no means/tools for cleaning nor toilet paper. Behind the cell, there was a white light, and P25 thought that was the prison kitchen. He knew because one of the detainees used to go with them to help [e.g. in serving food]. They offered the detainee some meals. One was eating to live [just to stay alive].

Judge Wiedner asked about the food. P25 said there was a lot of jam, bitter olives (from the trees), sometimes cauliflower with bulgur [The translator did not know the name P25 mentioned as it was in Syrian dialect. Therefore, P25 explained] It is like broccoli but not broccoli. Also, each person got an egg and stale Arabic bread.

Judge Wiedner asked P25 if he was able to differentiate day from night. P25 said no he could not differentiate.

Judge Wiedner asked P25 how he used to sleep. P25 answered that there was no place to sleep. Sometimes, he slept on his side, then on somebody’s leg or abdomen. Some people stayed sitting up.

Judge Wiedner asked about the air. P25 said there was absolutely none.

Judge Wiedner asked P25 if he noticed any injuries and about the condition of the detainees after the interrogations. P25 said, of course, he does not remember if it was before the interrogation or after it, but he saw tortured people. Normally/Naturally, it was after the interrogation. They ask the person and if he does not answer, they torture him.

Judge Wiedner asked P25 if he spoke with other detainees about torture. P25 said they talked about general matters such as, “where are you from?” and things like that. P25 remembers a Bedouin who was a shepherd. He was herding his sheep and the army shot them [the sheep] and brought him in. He was shouting “the sheep are gone” and we [P25 and other detainees] told him to drink [some water], but he cried and said, “What happened to me?”.

Judge Wiedner asked if P25 heard sounds of torture from the basement. P25 said he used to hear, but he did not know if it was from the interrogation rooms or from other places, because there was a hatch under the door.

Judge Wiedner asked how often P25 heard the sounds, for example, all the day long. P25 said he does not remember if it was all day long.

Judge Wiedner asked if it is correct that P25 had said that the interrogation was not in the basement. P25 said after they took him out of the place where he was [the cell], they took him upstairs (steps/stairs). He does not know which floor, the first floor, or another one. But he went up the stairs, not into the basement.

Judge Wiedner asked if P25 heard screams of torture when he was upstairs. P25 said he remembers a child who was with him and P25 recognized him. His name was [name redacted]. He also was young and cried a lot and was afraid. P25 entered [the interrogation room] and heard his voice.

Judge Wiedner asked if he heard something else. P25 said he does not remember. He would say if he remembered anything.

Judge Wiedner asked about the age of the child. P25 said he was under 15. P25 remembers him. [name redacted] and his father passed away. And now during the incidents [revolution], he [name redacted], his mother, and a girl [his sister] died. His brother is detained and his [other?] brother’s leg was amputated. A bomb fell on them.

Judge Wiedner asked if it is correct that it was not in prison. P25 confirmed.

Judge Wiedner asked if P25 talked with him [the child]. P25 said he saw him crying but did not talk with him, because there were many people from their family. And there was also another one P25 knows, but he does not want to mention his name. His mother worries about him.

Judge Wiedner asked P25 how many people were present during his interrogation. P25 said maybe two or three, but [he was sure that] there was one behind the desk and one on the sofa.

Judge Wiedner asked if one of them was high-ranking. P25 said he could not know, even if he would have seen. He did not serve [in the military]. He just speculates that the one behind the table was a [P25 once again used the same Arabic word, as before مسؤول. Here, it could be translated as “highly regarded”/“high official”].

Judge Wiedner asked if there were orders/instructions for beatings. P25 said he does not remember that he [the interrogator] told him [the other person] to beat P25. Maybe he said [something] and P25 forgot it.

Judge Wiedner asked about the consequences of the beating on the feet. P25 said his foot was always hurting and turned blue. He does not remember how it was when he was released, but it was a little painful.

Judge Wiedner asked if P25 has long-term symptoms due to an injury. P25 said that he did not understand. Judge Wiedner repeated the question. P25 said he does not know if this is because of it [the injury/the beating], but when it is cold, it hurts him. When he walks, people ask him “Why are you limping like that?”. But P25 said he does not know if it is because of his leg/foot or something else.

Judge Wiedner recalled that during the police questioning P25 said that he had a fracture. P25 answered that after he was released from prison, he visited a doctor from [information redacted], but he does not remember if somebody told him if it was a fracture or a hairline fracture [incomplete fracture]. At that time, he did not feel much, because there were always storming/raids and they were fleeing/on the run.

Judge Wiedner recalled that P25 said that he was whipped another time. P25 answered that he was whipped the moment he entered the prison. The second time was when Abu Ghadab entered and the detainees did not take off their clothes quickly and he beat P25 and everybody like a flock/herd of sheep. There are also details that P25 is trying to forget.

Judge Wiedner asked if other detainees talked about other torturing methods. P25 said he does not remember, but mainly whipping. He saw only one person who was tortured a lot (the one who offered tea) and the elderly person from [name redacted] family from [information redacted] whose relative is in the parliament and did not help him. The one in the parliament is called [name redacted].

Judge Wiedner recalled that during the police questioning P25 said that some of the detainees talked about electricity and hot water, but P25 neither saw nor experienced that. P25 said this was correct, but mainly it was whipping. Similar to the water [P25 heard about it], but did not see it.

Judge Wiedner asked P25 if he suffers from psychological consequences to this day. P25 said now, he has a psychological phobia from what happened. Occasionally, his hands shiver/quiver when he sees people fighting. Perhaps it is fear or anxiety. But before prison, he did not have [complain from] anything.

Judge Wiedner said that P25 gave an example in the police questioning that he shivered/quivered when the police asked him for his ID card. P25 said maybe it was like that before, but now it is better. They are not like Syria’s police. This is a law-abiding country not like Syria, where the strong prey on the weak.

***10-minute-break***

Judge Wiedner asked P25 about the treatment in the state security branch, about prison guards, food, etc. P25 said the treatment from the prison guards and the food were both better than in Al-Khatib. P25 remembers that in the state security, they used to give each detainee a loaf of bread or two. There was more psychological relief/comfort.

Judge Wiedner said that P25 talked about collective punishment during the police questioning. P25 said there was collective punishment in state security. The detainees were not supposed to speak with each other and if they did, there would be collective punishment.

Judge Wiedner asked what happened during the collective punishment. P25 said he does remember he was beaten, but mainly, they had to stay standing (someone uttered two or three words and they beat him a lot). Another time because P25 got sick and asked for a pill. He was tortured using cold water.

Judge Wiedner asked what happened then. P25 said when he was sick, he could not eat for three days. He remembers that through the hatch there was an air conditioner directed on the detainees. It was snowing/freezing outside and there was a cat that P25 used to see [Most likely he meant “through the window”]. P25 was more hopeful there than in Al-Khatib, because he was able to see an animal.

Judge Kerber showed the sketches P25 drew during the police questioning.

P25 said that the sketch showed Al-Khatib.

P25 said that there was a grid that the detainees put their shoes on. Above it was a light.

Judge Kerber asked what P25 drew on the left side of the sketch. P25 said this was the cell door and the window [hatch] where the detainees used to get food.

P25 said that was the interrogation room in Al-Khatib. P25 said that there was a person with a stick sitting on the sofa. P25 said that he does not remember if he already mentioned it, but that person, Abu Ghadab, tortured him. There [Marked on the sketch with *] was [name redacted], whom P25 mentioned earlier [the name was written on the sketch].

Judge Kerber asked if there was another sofa. P25 answered that he only remembers one sofa, but he did not see one [P25 may have meant that he did not look around or that he could not see well because of the blindfold].

Judge Kerber asked if there was a small table in front of the sofa. P25 said he does not remember the details. P25 remarked that perhaps the last time [in the last questioning] he had mentioned it but he does not remember now.

Questioning by Senior Prosecutor Klinge

Klinge asked where [information redacted] is located. P25 said it is in eastern Ghouta الغوطة الشرقية bordering [information redacted]. The Damascus International Airport is not far away. P25 used to see the planes landing from his house.

Klinge asked how many people were in the cell. P25 said he did not count them, but more than 30 to 40. Maybe 50 to 60, but there were many people. The detainees could not sleep, as there were three people on top of each other. P25 said he has a problem with numbers. He sometimes forgets his wife’s birthday.

Klinge asked if there were insects and lice in the cell. P25 said he could not see. It was so cold.

Klinge asked P25 to describe some of the detainees’ injuries. P25 said he talked about the child who had a leg injury, as well as a man who had been tortured that they [the personnel] brought in on his back. The detainees suffered insults as well.

Klinge asked how often detainees were taken outside the cell and brought back inside. P25 said he does not remember, but they used to take people daily and some of them were tortured. He added that they took the detainees out[side] [transferred them] because it got very crowded as they brought people from Al-Zabadani الزبداني. They took the detainees out[side] and brought the new detainees in. Of course, not all of them were taken out[side], but approximately 15 people.

Klinge asked what happened next. P25 said he does not know. He asked them and they said they are from Al-Zabadani and they took them out[side] the same day. P25 and the detainees did not ask them, because they knew it was because of demonstrations [the cause of their detention].

Klinge clarified that he meant what happened next to P25. P25 said sometime in the afternoon, they read out a list of names and told the detainees that they would be going home. P25 and the detainees felt reassured. The guards tied the detainees [their hands] with plastic wires and put them on the bus to the state security. On the bus, the detainees were beaten and tortured.

Klinge asked if P25 saw or heard about sexual abuse in Al-Khatib. P25 said he did not see it but maybe he heard about it.

Klinge asked what the worst thing was in Al-Khatib. P25 said the worst thing was the psychological pressure from the prison guards and that he and the other detainees did not know their fate.

Klinge asked whether the screams of torture P25 heard affected him. P25 said it became a psychological state/condition. Whenever there was a storming of his village, he got very scared. In the beginning, P25 used to say “I am not afraid, because I did nothing”, but his view changed.

Polz recalled that P25 said that it was cold in February and asked P25 if there were blankets or a heating system. P25 said he does not remember the guards giving the detainees blankets and in the state security there was a freezing [system] [The air conditioners he mentioned earlier] not heating/a radiator/a heater.

Polz asked if they asked for blankets. P25 said he does not remember. P25 and the other detainees had so much fear/were very fearful.

Polz asked if the floor was made of tiles or wood. P25 said he does not remember, but normally in Syria they do not have wooden floors, but rather tiles.

Oehmichen said that P25 talked about the child who wanted to get help in Tripoli and asked if P25 was talking about the one in Lebanon. P25 said he has nothing to do with that matter. He did not help him [the child]. P25 did not know why he wanted to go to Tripoli.

Oehmichen clarified that she meant that there were two cities with the name Tripoli. P25 answered, Lebanon. [The translator explained to the court that in Arabic, Tripoli refers to the city in Lebanon, as default. The city in Libya is called “Tripoli of the west طرابلس الغرب”].

The witness was dismissed.

Klinge read out a statement that the prosecution requested that the trial of Eyad A. be severed.

Linke requested that statement in writing.

Klinge said that in response to Schuster’s previous statement, there is no need for a handwriting expert.

Polz said that there is no need to summon the witness(es) the defense requested.

***20-minute-break***

Part of the Human Rights Watch report “We’ve Never Seen Such Horror” was read out loud.

The proceedings were adjourned at 1:30 p.m.

The next trial will be on January 7, 2021 at 9:30 a.m.

Trial Day 54 – January 07, 2021

The proceedings began at 9:30. There were two spectators and two individuals from the media present.

Judge Kerber said that there would not be any reading out of reports today, because there is still some time until the end of February.

The witness was Christian Knappmann, a 37-year-old police officer at the Meckenheim Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).

Judge Kerber asked the witness if he was willing to remove the face-mask so that they hear him better. Knappmann said that he would keep the face-mask on and asked the court to let him know if his voice was not clear. [Knappmann kept the mask on].

The hearing was concerning the testimony of Z30/07/19 [P14 from trial days 30 and 31, SJAC Trial Report 12].

Knappmann said that P14 was questioned about mass graves in July/August 2019 and did not identify specific satellite images from Google maps. In the investigation, they used images from Google, Apple as well as additional help from the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

Judge Kerber asked how they got the coordinations. Knappmann said that his colleague, Alexander Frey, helped him in the investigation.

Judge Kerber showed a satellite image of what appeared to be a cemetery. Knappmann said that it was from Google maps.

Judge Kerber showed two more satellite images that were zoomed-in on Al-Qutayfa القطيفة on the lines.

Judge Kerber showed the last image. Knappmann said that the image shows an object that they assumed to be an excavator.

[The images showed parallel, straight lines]

Judge Kerber asked how long the lines were. Knappmann said they were at least 100 meters. He explained that they could chronologically track changes in the images. The surface area became larger from 2014 to 2019. One can notice that there were trenches in areas that became surrounded by walls. A line measured 120 x 3 or 4 meters.

Böcker asked if there were images from 2011 and 2012. Knappmann said there were no known images from that period. The first image was from 2014. Knappman said that there is a gap in time in which they have no images.

Schuster asked how many corpses are alleged to be buried there. Knappmann said that P14 said the number could be one to 1.7 million.

Schuster asked if that number of corpses would fit in the trenches found in the investigation. Knappmann answered that they could not define the burial area as it depends on the method of the burial [if the corpses were aligned or thrown indiscriminately]. The length and the width could be measured, but the depth is unknown.

Schuster asked if the witness could confirm the number given by P14. Knappmann said that he could not assert whether the number one to 1.7 million would be correct or not.

Scharmer asked whether the BKA looked around the area near these coordinates as well. Knappmann said that they only made a professional evaluation of the exact coordinates, but they have a whole investigation into mass graves during the structural investigation. They did not find anything in the immediate vicinity of the coordinates.

The witness was dismissed.

The proceedings were adjourned at 10:00 a.m.

The next trial day will be on January 13, 2021 at 9:30 a.m.

 

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