Human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni described a German court’s decision to jail a former intelligence officer from the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria for four-and-a-half years in jail as historic.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, al-Bunni said that the officer who was convicted for complicity in crimes against humanity still enjoys influence in the war-torn country’s ruling regime.
Prosecutors in Koblenz successfully argued that Eyad al-Gharib, 44, brought at least 30 protesters to a notorious Damascus prison to be tortured in 2011, while working for Syria's most powerful civilian intelligence agency, the General Intelligence Directorate (GID).
The four-and-a-half years prison sentence falls short of what prosecutors were seeking, which was a five-and-a-half year jail term.
With nearly a decade passing since popular protests erupted in Syria, this marks the first verdict rendered in a case related to Damascus’ brutal and bloody oppression of freedom Arab Spring protestors.
Prosecutors alleged that al-Gharib had taken at least 30 anti-government protesters to a secret prison near Damascus known as Al Khatib, or Branch 251, to be tortured in September and October of 2011.
Another Syrian - Anwar Raslan, 58 - remains on trial.
Both al-Gharib and Raslan fled Syria's civil war and got asylum in Germany - but were arrested in 2019.
Raslan is suspected of being involved in the torture of at least 4,000 people in 2011-12. He is charged with 58 counts of murder as well as rape and sexual assault.
He is accused of being a high-ranking officer in charge of the GID's al-Khatib prison in Damascus, known as "Hell On Earth". If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Al-Bunni, who played a role with his colleagues in preparing this file, said that the ruling against al-Gharib is “historical.”
He noted that it was a precedent in the sense of a Syrian regime official getting convicted for facilitating crimes against humanity.
Al-Bunni also said that this was the first time in history that an individual was condemned from a regime still in power.
Al-Bunni is a prominent Syrian lawyer who, since the mid-1980s, started taking on human rights cases in Syria, for defending activists and individuals, regardless of their political affiliation.
He and his family spent 73 years in the prisons of the Syrian regime on various political and human rights charges.
When asked about what he is seeking, Al-Bunni said: “I want a civil, democratic Syria in which human rights and the highest human values are respected. I do not want my children to live the way I did.”
“When I look in the mirror, I want to see someone I respect,” he added.