OLG Koblenz: Life imprisonment for Syrians in the state torture process – politics

In the world’s first criminal trial for the Syrian state torture, the Higher Regional Court of Koblenz sentenced the main defendant to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity in unity with 27 murders and other offenses such as rape and deprivation of liberty. A co-defendant had previously been convicted.

The federal prosecutor’s office had accused 58-year-old Anwar R. of having been responsible for the torture of at least 4,000 people as the chief interrogator in the early stages of the Syrian civil war in 2011 and 2012 in a prison of the General Secret Service in the Syrian capital Damascus. At least 30 prisoners died.

The defense had demanded an acquittal. The defendant declared himself innocent. He did not torture and did not give a single order to do so. On the contrary, he also initiated the release of captured Arab Spring demonstrators. He secretly sympathized with the Syrian opposition and supported them after fleeing his homeland, once even as part of a negotiating team of the Assad opponents at the second Syria peace conference in Geneva.

Anwar R. is said to have been responsible for torturing thousands of people in a Syrian prison.


With more than 80 witnesses and a number of victims of torture as co-plaintiffs, the proceedings had attracted international attention. The international law principle in international criminal law makes it possible to prosecute possible war crimes committed by foreigners in other countries.

R. came to Germany on a humanitarian visa through his opposition contacts in 2014 and lived in Berlin. When R. testified as a witness himself in 2017, he described his previous role in Syria. The officers, who had not had him in their sights until then, passed on his information to the Federal Criminal Police Office, which began to investigate. The police arrested him in 2019.

The former co-defendant Eyad A. has already been sentenced by the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz to four and a half years in prison for aiding and abetting a crime against humanity. A decision has not yet been made on its revision. According to the conviction of the judges in Syria in 2011 he helped bring 30 demonstrators to the torture prison of the main defendant.

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