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Former Syrian secret police member convicted in torture case

Former Syrian secret police member convicted in torture case
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A German court on Wednesday convicted a former member of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s secret police for allegedly providing assistance in the torturing of prisoners. 

The Associated Press reported that Eyad Al-Gharib was found guilty of being an accessory to crimes against humanity by the court in the German city of Koblenz. The court also sentenced the former police officer to 4.5 years in prison. 

The conviction is the first against a Syrian government official to be ruled outside the Middle Eastern country.

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According to the AP, German prosecutors were able to bring forth the case against the former secret police member by invoking the principle of universal jurisdiction, as the crimes involved victims who were in Germany. 

Al-Gharib, 44, was accused of serving in the unit that arrested individuals following anti-government protests in the Syrian city of Douma and taking them to a detention center where they were reportedly tortured, according to the AP. 

Al-Gharib last year faced a trial along with fellow former Syrian official Anwar Raslan, a more senior member of the secret police force accused of supervising the “systematic and brutal torture” of more than 4,000 prisoners between April 2011 and September 2012. The AP reported that at least 58 people died during that period. 

A verdict in Raslan’s case is expected to come later this year. 

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the AP that Wednesday’s ruling serves as an important step in pushing back against the alleged human rights abuses by Assad’s government in Syria’s decade-long civil war. 

Germany and other European countries have served as a destination for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees displaced by the violence throughout the conflict. 

Maas told the AP that the cases outside Syria are “big bright spots,” as China and Russia, which have allied themselves with Assad’s government, have vetoed attempts by the United Nations Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court. 

Maas said Wednesday’s ruling is also “a clear signal to the victims” that “they shall get justice.”