Syrian Doctor Accused of Torture Is Arrested in Germany

Syrian Doctor Accused of Torture Is Arrested in Germany

Syrian Doctor Accused of Torture Is Arrested in Germany

Syrian Doctor Accused of Torture Is Arrested in Germany

BERLIN — A Syrian doctor living in Germany has been arrested on accusations that he tortured a detainee in a secret military prison in his home country, the latest example of efforts to hold accountable former Syrian officials who entered Germany as refugees.

The doctor, Alaa Mousa, is expected to face charges of crimes against humanity and causing grievous bodily harm in a prison where he worked in 2011, the federal prosecutor said. He is the third former Syrian official to be arrested in Germany on such charges, the prosecutor added. The other two went on trial in April.

The German authorities have been criticized for insufficiently vetting the more than one million migrants who entered the country during the refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016, many of them from Syria. While most of the Syrians were fleeing the government of President Bashar al-Assad, others had served in his military and security services.

Dr. Mousa, who was arrested on Friday, arrived in Germany in 2015 and appears to have passed the country’s strict re-certification procedure to be allowed to practice medicine.

Other Syrian refugees found him working in a clinic near the central city of Kassel and informed the German authorities of his background, said Anwar al-Bunni, a Syrian human rights lawyer in Germany who helped identify witnesses in the case.

Dr. Mousa, who was still practicing when he was arrested, is accused of torturing a man detained during an antigovernment demonstration in October 2011 in the Syrian city of Homs, according to a statement from the German federal prosecutor’s office.

After being tortured by prison officials, the man had an epileptic attack, the statement said. Dr. Mousa was called to the scene and, according to the statement, proceeded to beat the man to the ground with a plastic pipe and then kick him. Dr. Mousa was called to treat the man the next day, but instead beat him until he lost consciousness, the statement said.

The prisoner later died in custody.

In Germany, the federal prosecutor’s office and the federal police compile witness testimonies and other evidence to create a broad picture of the civil war in Syria, which has killed more than half a million people since it began in 2011.

Patrick Kroker, a human rights lawyer with the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, an independent nonprofit, said the inquiries had helped identify the roles of lower-level operatives in Syria.

“The result of the strong and systematic effort by German authorities to investigate structural crimes committed by the Syrian state is that they have the kind of overview that allows cases like this to be recognized and prosecuted,” Mr. Kroker said.

Two other Syrians — Anwar Raslan and Eyad al-Gharib, who are said to have worked in a secret prison in Syria’s capital, Damascus — were arrested last year and are on trial in Germany for crimes against humanity. That trial was the world’s first to deal with state-sponsored torture in Syria, and Mr. Raslan — a former colonel with Syria’s secret police — is the highest-ranking former Syrian official to stand trial outside Syria.

Mr. al-Bunni, the Syrian human rights lawyer, said of Dr. Mousa’s arrest, “It is important to send a message that no one can hide from justice, from the one who commits the smallest crime against humanity to the largest.”

His nonprofit organization, the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research, also helped track down witnesses for the trial of the two other men and is investigating other cases in hopes that they will be addressed by the German authorities.

Mr. Kroker, the German human rights lawyer, said he hoped the arrest would lead to cases against higher-ranking senior Syrian officials.

“My hope,” he said, “is that it will eventually lead to the investigation of the people actually responsible.”

Christopher F. Schuetze reported from Berlin, and Ben Hubbard from Beirut, Lebanon.


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