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Syrian doctor tried in Germany denies being a torturer

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Exiled for six years in Germany, the Syrian doctor Alaa Moussa is currently on trial in Frankfurt for crimes against humanity. He is accused of having tortured opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. The accused denies the charges against him.

He “saw the military secret services hitting wounded detainees” but a Syrian doctor tried in Germany for torturing opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s regime denied on Tuesday that he himself had committed these abuses. Alaa Moussa, who arrived in Germany in 2015 where he practiced medicine until his arrest in 2020, is on trial in Frankfurt for crimes against humanity. This 36-year-old surgeon must answer for 18 cases of torture of opponents and the murder by injection of a detainee when he worked in military hospitals. “I saw the military secret service hit injured detainees. I felt compassion for them but I couldn’t say anything, otherwise it would have been me instead of the detainee,” the defendant said in court on Tuesday.

The accused denies the charges against him

To the judges of the regional court who heard him for the second hearing of this trial, he however affirmed, as during the investigation, not to have himself committed any of the abuses of which the prosecution accuses him. According to information collected by the justice system, the doctor would have struck the victims in the head, stomach, genitals, on wounds.

He is accused of having corrected a bone fracture without anesthesia, sprayed a wound with a disinfectant containing alcohol, before setting it on fire, burning the genitals of an adolescent prisoner. “I did not do this and I did not see others do it,” he assured the judges, about this latest case. Same denials for the other charges.

Alaa Moussa, explained that he never asked any questions, his superior having warned him that the military secret services “controlled” the hospital. On at least one occasion, the accused says he saw a blindfolded patient with his hands tied behind his back being beaten by members of the secret service and military medical personnel at the hospital.

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“I was very afraid of the military secret services and also of the medical personnel who joined them,” he assured the court. For him, keeping prisoners blindfolded during beatings was “inhuman”.

“Against violence”

Did he feel sympathy for the opponents? Neither he nor his family were political activists, replied Alaa Moussa. “But I was not a super supporter of the regime either,” added the doctor who speaks in clear German. The anti-Assad protests started out peacefully, he described, but soon became more “radical”. “I am against violence, on any side whatsoever,” he said.

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After arriving in Germany, with an official visa, this orthopedic surgeon practiced in several hospitals before being recognized by Syrian refugees and arrested in June 2020.

He is judged in Germany in the name of the principle of “universal jurisdiction”. His trial began on January 19 and is expected to last several weeks. He faces life in prison. This is the second time that Germany, a pioneer in prosecuting abuses committed by the Syrian authorities, has judged crimes committed under Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

German justice sentenced a former Syrian officer to life in prison in early January for crimes against humanity in the first trial in the world linked to abuses attributed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

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