News

April 29, 2020 - Updated on May 4, 2020

Germany tries Syrian intelligence officer who tortured journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes the trial in Germany of Anwar Raslan, a former Syrian general intelligence officer who had an important role in President Bashar al-Assad’s repressive machinery and participated in the jailing and torturing of thousands of people including journalists.

RSF regards Raslan’s trial, which began in the German city of Koblenz on 23 April, as a major step towards ending the impunity that prevails in Syria.

 

Arrested in German in 2019, Raslan is accused of crimes against humanity between March 2011 and September 2012, when he was in charge of investigations at Al-Khateeb general intelligence detention centre in Damascus, also known as “Branch 251.”

 

The plaintiffs against him include two journalists: Amer Matar and Hussein Ghrer. Arrested twice in 2011 in connection with his freelance journalism, Matar was tortured during interrogation and was accused of “spreading false news” and “undermining the nation’s morale.”

 

Ghrer Ghurair was arrested on October 24, 2011 for training journalists and activists, working with media organizations, and was tortured in Branch 251 under Ruslan.


“This trial is a major step toward ending the unbearable impunity for crimes against journalists by the Syrian intelligence services,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “But we must not forget that the two journalists who are plaintiffs in this trial are among the very few who managed to escape. Hundreds of others disappeared completely after being arrested.”

 

This is not the first time that a torturer of Syrian journalists has been arrested and charged. Islam Alloush, a former Jaysh al-Islam spokesman responsible for the abduction of journalist and human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh in Syria in December 2013, was arrested in the French city of Marseille in January 2020 and was charged with war crimes, acts of torture and enforced disappearances.

 

Syria is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.