The first trial of a senior member of the Syrian army involved in war crimes has begun in Germany, despite ongoing sanctions over the global coronavirus outbreak.
According to the Qatari news agency Al Jazeera, the accused Anwar Ruslan, a former colonel of the Syrian army, and his co-defendant Iyad al-Gharib, who allegedly worked under Anwar Ruslan, were both living in Germany as refugees. He was arrested in February last year.
A spokesman for the regional court in the southwestern German city of Koblenz told Al Jazeera that since the two suspects were in custody, it was important to expedite the case in the interests of justice and an effective legal system under German law.
He said the trial was to be adapted to the current situation so that a schedule could be worked out.
The trial began yesterday in Koblenz, where the space between the press and public galleries was spaced out.
Anwar Ruslan, accused of involvement in crimes against humanity, oversaw the investigation in Military Intelligence Branch 251 in Damascus.
German prosecutors said Anwar Ruslan was well aware of the torture, inhumane conditions, and the resulting deaths of anti-government elements at Branch 251.
The case against Anwar Ruslan is based on his deployment between April 2011 and September 2012, when at least 4,000 prisoners were tortured in Branch 251.
Prisoners were often denied medical treatment and food, and 58 people died.
Prosecutors are hoping to prove the case against the former Syrian colonel.
It should be noted that there is no jury during trials in Germany and the entire case, which may take up to 2 years to complete, will be decided by specially appointed judges.
On the first day of the trial, the accused and his defense lawyers have the opportunity to testify in court.
This is the first case against a high-ranking official in the administration of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Under the principle that Germany is using its jurisdiction for trials against Anwar Ruslan and Iyad al-Gharib, German prosecutors can work on war crimes cases with or without close ties to Germany.