Syrian trial in Berlin: life imprisonment for a militiaman

A Berlin court on February 23 sentenced former Syrian militiaman Moafak D. to life in jail for firing a grenade launcher on a crowd of civilians in the Yarmouk camp, near Damascus. This is the third trial for war crimes related to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be held in Germany. The trials are being held in an increasingly discreet manner.

Syrian trial for war crimes in Germany
The court in Berlin, Germany, which sentenced former Syrian militiaman Moafak D. (hardly visible on the right behind his lawyers) on Thursday, is the first to deal with the Bashar al-Assad regime's practice of besieging and starving civilians through its trial. © Hannah El-Hitami
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The Berlin District Court convicted Moafak D. aged 55 and stateless, of war crimes including a quadruple murder and a double attempted murder.

A member of a government militia, the defendant fired a grenade with an anti-tank weapon into a crowd waiting for food on March 23, 2014, according to the court.

His lawyers had pleaded for acquittal, claiming that the accused was not at the scene of the events that day.

According to the judgment, there is every reason to believe that there were "significantly more" deaths and injuries than the four deaths and two serious injuries finally retained by the court. The events took place in the refugee camp of Yarmouk, in the suburbs of the Syrian capital, originally hosting Palestinians.

Militias in the pay of Bashar al-Assad took over the camp between 2013 and 2015 and sealed off the area, depriving the inhabitants in part of food, water and medical care.

The accused was a member of one of these militias, the Free Palestine Movement (FPM), and on the day of the events was guarding a checkpoint to control the distribution of food by a humanitarian organization.

He allegedly shot into the crowd to "take revenge and punish the defenceless residents of the neighbourhood", according to Judge Delia Neumann, who presided over the hearing. He was "still angry" after the death two days earlier of his nephew, probably killed by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), according to the prosecution.

The accused arrived in 2018 as part of a family reunion in Germany, where he was later arrested.

He was tried in Germany for war crimes and crimes against humanity under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

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