Syrian doctor arrested in Germany for 'crimes against humanity'

German prosecutors accuse suspect of beating epileptic prisoner while working for Syrian military intelligence in Homs.

A Syrian doctor living in Germany has been arrested on suspicion of carrying out crimes against humanity at a prison in his war-torn country of origin, prosecutors said on Monday.

The suspect, identified as Alaa M, is accused of having “tortured a detainee … in at least two cases” at a prison run by Syrian intelligence services in the city of Homs in 2011, said German federal prosecutors in a statement.

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Alaa M was called to assist a man who had suffered an epileptic fit after being jailed for taking part in a protest, the statement said.

He then proceeded to beat the man with a plastic pipe. “Even after he had gone down, Alaa M continued the beatings and additionally kicked the victim,” the statement said.

The next day, Alaa M and another doctor are said to have subjected the victim to further beatings. He later died, though the cause of death is unclear.

Alaa M left Syria in mid-2015 and moved to Germany, where he also practised as a doctor.

Syria’s civil war, which started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests, has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-conflict population.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group estimates that at least 100,000 people have died from torture or as a result of horrific conditions in government prisons.

In April, the first court case worldwide over state-sponsored torture by Bashar al-Assad’s government opened in Germany.

The two defendants – suspected members of al-Assad’s security services – are being tried on the principle of universal jurisdiction over charges of torture and sexual assault. Universal jurisdiction allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity.

Germany has taken in more than 700,000 Syrian refugees since the start of the conflict.

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