When Anwar Raslan was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity, he appeared nonplussed. Elsewhere in the courtroom, the former Syrian colonel’s victims rejoiced. Amid cheers, they shook hands and embraced. Social distancing rules were briefly forgotten. Raslan, a bespectacled 58-year-old, barely flinched.
The court in Koblenz delivered this historic verdict on Thursday morning. And scores of Syrian activists — mostly relatives of people who have been forcibly disappeared or killed by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — poured into this tiny German city to witness it.
The ruling concluded a nearly two-year trial, the first to hold a member of Assad’s regime accountable for crimes against humanity. As part of the same trial, Eyad al-Gharib, a more junior officer, was convicted last February of aiding and abetting torture and deprivation of liberty as crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Raslan — who defected from the regime at the end of 2012 and fled to Germany — has denied all the charges against him. Continue Reading