A German court sentenced a former Syrian intelligence officer to life in prison yesterday for crimes against humanity in a landmark ruling against the Assad regime.
The conviction is the first time the regime has been held responsible for state-sponsored torture by a court anywhere in the world.
Anwar Raslan, a former colonel in the Syrian intelligence service, was found guilty of the murder of 27 detainees and the torture of 4,000 at the notorious al-Khatib prison in Damascus.
He was also found guilty of the rape and sexual assault of prisoners.
Raslan defected from the regime of Bashar al-Assad and fled Syria in the early years of the civil war. He was granted asylum in Germany and was for a time active in Syrian exile opposition groups.
But German authorities began investigating his past after he admitted his work as an intelligence officer to police. He was also recognised by Syrian refugees, who compiled evidence against him.
The trial was held in Germany under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which holds that war crimes and crimes against humanity can be prosecuted anywhere regardless of where they were committed.
Raslan was head of interrogation at the Branch 251 intelligence unit, which ran the prison, and was held responsible for the crimes committed there as commanding officer.
Former inmates testified to the court how they were blindfolded and beaten, given electronic shocks, kept in cells so crowded they could only stand and forcibly prevented from sleeping.
Raslan, who denied the charges against him, declined to testify on the stand, but in a written statement claimed he secretly sympathised with the Syrian opposition and ordered the release of Arab Spring protesters. (Independent)