Tag Archives: Syria

Germany bans Salafi Muslim groups | Instant News

BERLIN, February 25 (Reuters) – German authorities carried out raids at several locations in Berlin and Brandenburg on Thursday after banning Berlin’s Salafi Muslim group, police said.

Berlin’s senate interior department on Thursday said it had banned the “jihad-salafi” association Jama’atu Berlin, also known as the Berlin Tauhid, and that police had carried out the raid, without providing further details.

The German newspaper Tagesspiegel said the group glorified the battle for “Islamic State” on the internet and called for the killing of Jews, adding that criminal proceedings were awaiting decisions against some of its members.

The newspaper added that the group had been in contact with Anis Amri, a Tunisian asylum seeker who failed with Islamic ties, who hijacked a truck and took it to a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people in 2016.

Salafis – strict Sunni Muslims – include peaceful private individuals, activists seeking to implement Sharia law, and militants who advocate violence to establish a state they perceive to represent true Islam.

The number of Salafis has risen in Germany to an all-time high of 12,150 in 2019, Germany’s domestic intelligence said in its annual report last year, listing them among “Islamic extremists”.

It said the number of Salafis has more than tripled since 2011 and that Salafi groups in Germany are going through a consolidation stage, adding that followers remain a low profile in public. (Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; editing by Philippa Fletcher)


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Verdict expected in Syria torture trial in Germany | Crime Against Humanity News | Instant News

A German court will deliver a historic ruling on Wednesday in the first worldwide court case for state-sponsored torture by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Nearly 10 years since the Arab Spring reached Syria on March 15, 2011, the decision will be the first in the world related to the government’s brutal suppression of protesters in Damascus.

Eyad al-Gharib, 44, was accused of being an accomplice to crimes against humanity as a low-ranking member of the intelligence service.

Syrian defendant Eyad al-Gharib arrives in court for an unprecedented trial of state-sponsored torture in Syria at a court in Koblenz, west Germany [File: Thomas Lohnes/AFP]

The former colonel is suspected of helping to arrest at least 30 protesters and send them to the al-Khatib detention center in Damascus after a demonstration in the Duma, northeast of the capital, in autumn 2011.

Gharib will be the first of two defendants on trial since April 23 to be sentenced by a court in Koblenz, after a judge ruled to split the trial in half.

The second defendant, Anwar Raslan, 58, was accused of directly committing crimes against humanity, including overseeing the murder of 58 people and torturing another 4,000 people.

The Raslan trial is expected to last until at least the end of October.

Universal jurisdiction

The two men are being tried under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows foreign countries to prosecute crimes against humanity, including war crimes and genocide, wherever they are committed.

Other similar cases have emerged in Germany, France and Sweden, as Syrians seeking refuge in Europe have turned to the only legal means currently available to them due to paralysis in the international justice system.

Prosecutors in Koblenz are working on five and a half years for Gharib, who defected in 2012 before finally fleeing Syria in February 2013.

After spending time in Turkey and then Greece, Gharib arrived in Germany on April 25, 2018.

He has never denied his past, and, in fact, his story that was told to the German authorities responsible for the asylum application that ultimately led to his arrest in February 2019.

Prosecutors accused him of being a cog in a system machine in which torture is practiced on an “almost industrial scale”.

With attention focused primarily on Raslan during the 10 months of the hearing, Gharib remained silent and hid his face from the camera. She wrote a letter read by her lawyer in which she expressed her sorrow for the victims.

And with tears running down his face, he listened to his lawyer call for his release, arguing that he and his family could have been killed if he didn’t carry out regime orders.

His defenders also said he lived in fear of his superior Hafez Makhlouf, a cousin and close associate of Assad who was notorious for his brutality.

Terrible harassment

But Patrick Kroker, a lawyer representing the joint plaintiffs, argued that Gharib could have been more open during the trial, rather than remaining silent during the trial.

People like him “can be very important in telling us about [Syrian officials] “We were really targeting, but it was something he chose not to do,” said Kroker.

During the trial, more than a dozen Syrian men and women testified to testify about the gruesome abuses they suffered at the al-Khatib detention center, also named “251 Branch”.

Prosecutors said they were subjected to rape and sexual harassment, “electric shocks”, beatings with “fists, wires and whips” and “lack of sleep” in prison.

Several witnesses can be heard anonymously, with their faces hidden or wearing wigs for fear of reprisals against their relatives who are still in Syria.

The trial also marked the first time photographs of the so-called Caesar’s files were presented in court.

50,000 pictures taken by “Caesar” defectors of the Syrian military police show the bodies of 6,786 Syrians who have been starved or tortured to death inside the Assad government’s detention centers.

They were scrutinized during the trial by forensic scientist Markus Rothschild, whose analysis was considered to be material evidence of extraordinary nature.

Last year, the New York Times newspaper published a report on how the Syrian government had run a network of secret torture facilities across Syria while the country’s civil war continued.

The exact number of civilians held in these prisons is unknown, but around 128,000 Syrians are considered detained or dead, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights.

Although the Syrian government has denied that it committed systematic abuse, it has recently acknowledged the deaths of hundreds of people in detention by issuing death certificates, or “listing them as dead” in family registration files.

Currently, there are nearly six million Syrian refugees fleeing the war in Syria. Even as the war ended, many feared persecution upon return and had voiced their need for a UN-sponsored safe return process.

The ongoing trial has inspired Syrian activists and NGOs across Europe to encourage their federal prosecutors to issue international arrest warrants against top Syrian government officials.


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Defense calls for liberation of Syria on trial for torture | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | Instant News

On the final day of his trial, Eyad A. * wiped his tears. He was clearly moved. His defense lawyers have tried to make the case that he has no choice but to obey orders from his superiors in the Syrian intelligence service a decade ago in Damascus. The alternative was risking not only his own life but also the lives of his family. The legal term is “need as defense.” Eyad hopes it will lead to his release on Wednesday.

That a landmark trial, which started in April 2020, have witnessed German prosecutors file an indictment in a German court against a Syrian accused of torturing and killing other Syrians in Syria. It is based on the International Criminal Code and the “principle of international jurisdiction”, which allows the German legal system to regulate crimes against humanity even if the crime was not committed in Germany and Germany is neither the perpetrator nor the victim.

Eyad is charged with taking at least 30 protesters to a Damascus prison for torture in the fall of 2011.

During the 60 days of the trial, the atrocities, atrocities and brutality of the Syrian regime were documented in almost unbearable detail through the testimony of countless witnesses, as well as legal and forensic experts. In their final plea, the state prosecutor spoke of murder and torture on an “almost industrial scale.”

The same prosecutor also took pains to emphasize that the horror in Syria is unfolding, that the Assad regime has been able to tighten its grip on power and that even in Koblenz the regime’s influence can be felt: Some witnesses are only willing to testify anonymously. Others have been insulted and threatened on social media. A person must be placed under witness protection. Others heard that family members in Syria had been bullied.

Small fish

Eyad comes from a poor rural area in eastern Syria where he struggles to make a living. In the mid-1990s, he joined the intelligence service, initially as a sports instructor. He didn’t get any further than the rank of sergeant.

He has – against his will, as he stresses – transferred to a security unit called Branch 40. The man in charge is Hafez Makhlouf, the cousin of Syrian ruler Bashar Assad, and the unit has a reputation for thuggery at its worst.

In September or October 2011, Eyad, he said, was ordered to take part in the operation to break up demonstrations. Hafez Makhlouf himself appeared at the protest site in a Mercedes jeep and opened fire on the demonstrators with an assault rifle. He shouted: “If you love your president, shoot the traitors,” and asked others to target the protesters. Eyad said he tried to stay calm and not open fire. He added that it was the moment he knew that his time had come in the desert.

In the eyes of the prosecution, Eyad turned from witness to suspect. After the shooting was over, Eyad and his colleagues combed the area’s streets to escape the protesters. They arrested at least 30 people, all of whom were taken to Branch 251 in Damascus. The oppression and abuse of these people began during the journey and continued after arriving at what is also known as Al-Khatib prison or “Hell on Earth”.

Eyad fled Syria in 2013 and then took five years to go to Germany, where he applied for asylum. He has made no secret of his past relationship with the Syrian intelligence services. A few months later, he got a call from an official at BKA, the German Federal Criminal Police Office, to be examined as a witness.

Help with investigations

Since 2011, another important German government agency, the Public Prosecutor, has been collecting evidence of crimes committed by the Syrian state. Eyad provided BKA officials with extensive information: more than 30 pages, including a grisly account of how he clearly heard the screams of torture victims in the 251 Branch cafeteria.

Her testimony helps build the case against Anwar R., former intelligence service colonel, and the second defendant at trial.

Anwar – himself a trained lawyer – also faces crimes against humanity charges in Koblenz. The gruesome deeds he was accused of had a very different scope, so his case was separated from that of Eyad, and a decision is expected later this year.

Anwar is accused of torturing at least 4,000 people in Branch 251. At least 58 people did not survive.

After leaving the intelligence service, he was seen as a potential source of valuable information. He joined the opposition and managed to obtain a visa that would allow him to travel without apparent difficulty from Jordan to Germany, where he was immediately granted asylum.

Witness for the defendant

Despite the abundance of witness testimony, prosecutors have little concrete evidence against Eyad apart from his own statements. And there’s another legal issue: Because Eyad A. was initially examined as a witness and not as a suspect, he was not properly informed of his rights. This in turn sparked disputes about the usefulness of the statements he made to court.

What is clear is that his lawyers made a lot of sense in their final defense of Eyad’s willingness to testify. They also pointed out that it was his first cooperation that led to Anwar’s arrest.

And, despite a detailed description of Syria’s oppressive system, the state prosecutors confirmed their belief that Eyad could not be appointed to the court as a representative of the regime. Judgment will and must continue on the action alone. Prosecutors argue that without someone like him, the system will not work.

Prosecutors said Eyad could have disobeyed orders from his superiors. They pushed for five and a half years in prison. However, as this trial draws to a close, there is one thing that is shared by everyone: “immense respect” for the selfless courage of the victims of torture who are willing to appear as witnesses.

This text has been translated from German.

* Editor’s note: DW follows the German press code, which emphasizes the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and urges us not to disclose full names in such cases.


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Iran Mediation Bazaar | Asharq AL-awsat | Instant News

With Donald Trump’s departure from the White House, doers of good have thrown their hats, or turbans, into the ring as mediators between Tehran and Washington.

First, French President Emmanuel Macron said he was ready to take advantage of Joe Biden’s chances of victory to build a bridge with Iran. Then, it was the turn of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who wore an honest intermediary robe. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is also pondering about mediation.

Last week, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani traveled to Tehran to offer mediation. The last to join the line was Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Iraqi National Policy Movement.

Interestingly, all of the potential mediators come from countries that have their own problems with the Islamic Republic – issues they have failed to resolve after four decades of diplomatic zigzags.

In some cases, this problem became a major obstacle to full normalization of the Khomein regime. In other cases, the problem is “the bush,” a diplomatic term for hot-tempered men who is not threatening enough to generate open hostility.

Tackling all the problems Tehran has with France, Russia, Pakistan, Qatar and Iraq will take more space than columns. So, let’s focus on the problem between Iraq and Iran.

Why didn’t Ammar al-Hakim offer to mediate between Tehran and Baghdad to get rid of the “bush”, restore bilateral relations and restore normality after four decades of war, intrigue and tension? Al-Hakim was well placed for the task.

He comes from an old Persian family and spent many years in Iran. His grandfather was Marj’a al-Taqlid (Source of Emulation) the highest Shia for a decade. By blood or marriage, he is associated with large clerical families in Iran and Iraq. In Iraq his party is one of the largest, and, unlike most of the rival Shiite groups, gets nods and winks from Ayatollah Ali Sistani the Great.

What problems should he mediate?

First, he must persuade Tehran to treat Iraq as an independent nation-state, not glacis for the Islamic Republic in its campaign for an “export revolution”.

The Kayhan daily, which reflects the views of “Supreme Advisor” Ali Khamenei, published an editorial on Monday about the visit of Ayatollah Ra’isi, head of the Islamic court, to Iraq. It concluded that “although borders are important and must be respected”, the visit demonstrated that “our revolution has dissolved nations into the ummah”.

The Tehran circle talks about the Qasr Shirin Treaty between Iran and the Ottoman Empire which gave Iran “control rights” over the “holy places” in Iraq. All of that was probably nothing more than gibberish about the fun-loving Khomein type.

What was not nonsense, however, was upgrading, arming, and funding the militias controlled by the Quds Corps. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, an ally of Tehran, has spoken of instances when the Quds Corps directly intervened in Iraqi affairs.

The late General Qassem Soleimani spoke about how he often went to Iraq without telling the Iraqi government what he was doing. In the case of his crimes in Syria, at least, he claims to have received an invitation from Bashar al-Assad.

The next problem is for the Islamic Republic to stop bombarding Iraqi villages it deems “right-of-pursuit” against “Kurdish terrorists”. The Tehran media noted that Turkey did the same in Iraq. They forgot that Turkey got permission from Saddam Hussein who led the government at that time.

Next on the agenda is to rearrange the borders between the two neighbors according to the 1975 Algiers Accord. With good intentions, most of the changes caused by the 1980-88 war can be quickly corrected. The next item could be the creation of mechanisms to implement United Nations Resolution 598 ending war, to resolve issues such as responsibility for initiating hostilities, paying reparations and drafting a peace treaty to legally end the state of war.

The problem of thousands of wars killed and lost in action whose fate is unknown can also be resolved, ending decades of suffering by the many Iranian and Iraqi families who lost loved ones in the tragedy. (Last week, the Russians found and buried with military clocks the full remains of dozens of French soldiers who died in battle during Napoleon’s invasion two centuries ago.)

Another thing could be the resurgence of a 1976 agreement on Iranian pilgrimages to Shiite “holy sites” to end uncontrolled visits often led by black marketers linked to security services on both sides.

President Hassan Rouhani said Iraq is now Iran’s biggest foreign market with more than $ 10 million in goods imported. However, most of that happens in a black economy. The remainder is handled by individual smugglers who cross borders on foot or mules.

The resurgence of the 1977 trade agreement could help end the current turmoil and allow Tehran and Baghdad to secure revenue from tariffs and taxation. Establishing mutually accepted rules on charities could also help curb money laundering and tax evasion through fake religious charities linked to crime syndicates and security services.

Another problem concerns dual nationality.

An estimated 1.2 million Iraqis also hold Iranian identity documents while neither Iraqi nor Iran recognize dual nationality. This creates huge problems for many people, including the children of two citizens born in Iran or Iraq. The issue of unpaid Iraqi electricity bills imported from Iran could also be on the agenda while the old agreement on the discharge of water from Iranian rivers flowing into Iraq could be put forward for review.

The ecological crisis in the southern marshes (80 percent in Iraq, 20 percent in Iran) also calls for cooperation through common bodies.

Experts claim that the Majnun Islands, which are owned by Iran and Iraq, represent one of the largest oil fields in the world. However, despite the interests of more than 30 oil companies, no large-scale exploitation is possible without normalization between Iran and Iraq.

The draft 1977 continental shelf agreement could quickly activate, allowing the rebuilding of Um al-Qasr as a deep sea port. That will in turn finalize a similar agreement Iran, under the Shah, signed with Kuwait. The big enchilada in al-Hakim’s imaginary mediation was the reopening of Shatt al-Arab, the border waterway was closed and blocked during the war. Reopening, Shatt can ensure the rise of Basra in Iraq and Khorramshahr in Iran, the region’s largest port for centuries. Dredging and renovating the waterway could cost around $ 20 billion, worth considering if the two parties form a joint navigation management body.

Ah, we omitted the word “normalization”.

If the Islamic Republic cannot normalize relations even with Iraq, how can it be normal with America’s “Great Satan”? There can be no normalization with a regime whose leader openly says “We will never be a normal country.”

If Ammar is wise to intervene, let him start with his two hometowns.


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Joint Statement by Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Britain and the United States – Rocket attack in Erbil (16 February 2021) | Instant News

We, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain and the United States strongly condemn the February 15 rocket attack on Iraq’s Kurdistan Region. We extend our condolences to the victims, their families and the Iraqi people. Together, our governments will support the Government of Iraq’s investigation into the attacks with a view to holding those responsible to account. We are united in our view that attacks on the US and Coalition personnel and facilities will not be tolerated.


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