Germany says guilty in first Syria torture trial

A German court sentenced a former member of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad's security services to prison on Wednesday (February 24) for abetting the torture of civilians, in the first verdict for crimes against humanity in the 10-year-old civil war.

The higher regional court sentenced Eyad A to 4 and a half years in prison.

Saying he had arrested at least 30 anti-government protesters at the start of the conflict in 2011 and sent them to an intelligence facility where he knew detainees were tortured.

Wassim Mukdad was a plaintiff and witness in the trial:

"This is the first step. The road to justice is long. And one of the goals is to bring Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle before a court. This is a relief, but it's also not the end. It's only the beginning."

The Assad government denies it tortures prisoners.

But the verdict gives hope to the 800,000 Syrians in Germany who say they were tortured in government facilities.

Prosecutors secured the trial under Germany's universal jurisdiction laws, which allow courts to prosecute crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

The same court will continue hearings in another case of 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.

Video Transcript

- A German court sentenced a former member of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad's security services to prison on Wednesday for abetting the torture of civilians in the first verdict of crimes against humanity in the 10-year-old civil war. The higher regional court sentenced Eyad A to 4 and 1/2 years in prison, saying he had arrested at least 30 anti-government protesters at the start of the conflict in 2011 and sent them to an intelligence facility where he knew detainees were tortured.

WASSIM MUKDAD: [SPEAKING GERMAN]

- Wassim Mukdad was a plaintiff and witness in the trial.

INTERPRETER: This is the first step. The road to justice is long. And one of the goals is to bring Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle before a court. This is a relief. But it's also not the end. It's only the beginning.

- The Assad government denies it tortures prisoners. But the verdict gives hope to the 800,000 Syrians in Germany who say they were tortured in government facilities.

Prosecutors secured the trial under Germany's universal jurisdiction laws, which allows courts to prosecute crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world. The same court will continue hearings in another case of 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.