A Syrian doctor living in Germany has been arrested on suspicion of crimes against humanity in his country of origin, prosecutors have said, in the latest German move against suspected war crimes in Syria.
The suspect, identified as Alaa M, is accused of having “tortured a detainee … in at least two cases” at a prison run by the Syrian intelligence service in the city of Homs in 2011, according to German federal prosecutors.
He was arrested in the state of Hesse on Friday and remains in pre-trial detention.
Alaa M was called to the assistance of a man who had an epileptic fit after being detained for taking part in a protest, prosecutors said. He then allegedly beat the man with a plastic pipe. “Even after he had gone down, Alaa M continued the beatings and additionally kicked the victim,” they said.
The next day, Alaa M and another doctor allegedly subjected the victim to further beatings. He later died, though the cause of death is unclear. According to Spiegel magazine, the victim’s family found his body with bloody wounds on his face and holes in his skull.
Alaa M left Syria in mid-2015 and moved to Germany, where he also practised as a doctor.
Syria’s civil war, which started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests, has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced nearly half the country’s pre-conflict population.
Germany has taken in more than 700,000 Syrians since the start of the war and seen victims of torture come face to face with their torturers.
The first court case worldwide over state-sponsored torture by Bashar al-Assad’s regime opened in Germany in April – after the suspects were brought to the notice of the authorities by their victims.
The two defendants, the former Syrian intelligence officers Anwar Raslan and Eyad al-Gharib, are being tried on the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity.
Seven Syrians who allegedly suffered or witnessed rape and sexual abuse in detention centres under Assad’s government last week submitted a criminal complaint to prosecutors in Germany.
The four women and three men were held in various detention centres in Damascus, Aleppo and Hama between April 2011 and August 2013, according to the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, a Berlin-based legal group.