Syrian defendant Eyad A. arrives to hear his verdict in the courtroom in Koblenz, Germany February 24, 2021. Picture: POOL via REUTERS/THOMAS LOHNES
Syrian defendant Eyad A. arrives to hear his verdict in the courtroom in Koblenz, Germany February 24, 2021. Picture: POOL via REUTERS/THOMAS LOHNES
Syrian defendant Eyad A. arrives to hear his verdict in the courtroom in Koblenz, Germany February 24, 2021. Picture: POOL via REUTERS/THOMAS LOHNES
Syrian defendant Eyad A. arrives to hear his verdict in the courtroom in Koblenz, Germany February 24, 2021. Picture: POOL via REUTERS/THOMAS LOHNES

Koblenz — A German court sentenced a former member of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security services to four-and-a-half years in prison on Wednesday for facilitating the torture of civilians, the first such verdict for crimes against humanity in the 10-year-old civil war.

The higher regional court in the western city of Koblenz said the member, identified as Eyad A, had arrested at least 30 antigovernment protesters at the start of the conflict in 2011 and sent them to an intelligence facility where he knew detainees were tortured.

The verdict gives hope to the 800,000 Syrians in Germany who say they were tortured in government facilities. Attempts to establish an international tribunal for Syria failed.

“This is an important step forward in the process of securing accountability for the Syrian government’s systematic use of torture against civilians,” said Steve Kostas, a lawyer with the Open Society Foundation’s Justice Initiative, which is representing Syrian plaintiffs.

The Assad government denies it tortures prisoners.

Eyad A’s lawyers had asked for an acquittal, saying he had carried out the arrests in and around Damascus under duress by his superiors. He had asked the court to consider him a witness in broader legal efforts against the Syrian government.

The same court will continue hearings in the case of a second suspect identified as Anwar R, a former intelligence officer charged with 58 murders in a Damascus prison where prosecutors say at least 4,000 opposition activists were tortured in 2011 and 2012.

Syrian human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni said the unprecedented verdict would speed up efforts to bring charges against former members of the Syrian government suspected of war crimes who have fled to Europe.

“History has been made,” said Bunni. “The first verdict against a member of the Syrian regime’s torture and murder machine is a verdict against the whole regime, not just against one individual. It gives hope that justice is possible.”

Reuters

Syrian defendant Eyad A. arrives to hear his verdict in the courtroom in Koblenz, Germany February 24, 2021. Picture: POOL via REUTERS/THOMAS LOHNES
Syrian defendant Eyad A. arrives to hear his verdict in the courtroom in Koblenz, Germany February 24, 2021. Picture: POOL via REUTERS/THOMAS LOHNES
Syrian defendant Eyad A. arrives to hear his verdict in the courtroom in Koblenz, Germany February 24, 2021. Picture: POOL via REUTERS/THOMAS LOHNES
Syrian defendant Eyad A. arrives to hear his verdict in the courtroom in Koblenz, Germany February 24, 2021. Picture: POOL via REUTERS/THOMAS LOHNES
Syrian defendant Eyad A. arrives to hear his verdict in the courtroom in Koblenz, Germany February 24, 2021. Picture: POOL via REUTERS/THOMAS LOHNES
Syrian defendant Eyad A. arrives to hear his verdict in the courtroom in Koblenz, Germany February 24, 2021. Picture: POOL via REUTERS/THOMAS LOHNES

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