Germany arrests Syrian on crimes against humanity charges

Germany arrests Syrian on crimes against humanity charges
The suspect, identified as Ahmad H. as per German legal practice, is accused of working as a local leader of a pro-regime militiamen in Syria, where he engaged in enslavement, abuse and torment of civilians.
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Germany has arrested and prosecuted numerous Syrians accused of collaborating with the Assad regime and war crimes [Getty]

German police have arrested a Syrian national on crimes against humanity and war crimes including enslavement for allegedly taking part in a brutal crackdown on government opponents, prosecutors said on Thursday.

The federal prosecutor's office said in a statement that the suspect, identified only as Ahmad H. in line with German legal practice, had been detained on July 26 in the northern city of Bremen. He was remanded in custody on Thursday.

He is accused of acting between 2012 and 2015 during Syria's civil war as a local leader of pro-government "shabiha" militiamen in Damascus tasked with helping to crush dissent against the Bashar al-Assad regime.

The militia operated checkpoints where "people were arrested arbitrarily so that they or their family members could be extorted for money, committed to forced labour or tortured", prosecutors said.

The fighters also plundered the homes of regime opponents, sold the spoils and kept the profits, they added.

Ahmad H., who security sources said is 46, is accused of taking part "personally in the abuse of civilians". They say that in one incident in 2013, ordering militiamen to "brutally torment a detained man for hours using plastic pipes".

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In autumn 2014, Ahmad H. and other militiamen and members of the military secret service allegedly attacked a civilian at a checkpoint, grabbing him by the hair and beating his head on the pavement.

Between December 2012 and early 2015, he is accused of twice arresting groups of 25 to 30 people and forcing them to carry sandbags to the nearby front, where they faced crossfire and were deprived of food and water while being beaten.

It was unclear when Ahmad H. came to Germany or what witnesses might have reported him to authorities and given evidence against him. A spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office declined to provide further details.

Germany let in hundreds of thousands of Syrians during the 2015-16 refugee influx.

NGOs warned at the time of the danger that "shabiha" militiamen accused of committing some of the most barbaric atrocities against civilians for President Bashar al-Assad's regime were arriving incognito in Europe and getting asylum.

Germany has previously used the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows the prosecution of certain grave crimes regardless of where they took place, to try Syrians over atrocities committed during the country's civil war.