BERLIN (AP) — An alleged former member of a Syrian pro-government militia has been arrested in Germany on suspicion of crimes against humanity related to the abuse and torture of civilians in the early years of his country’s civil war, prosecutors said Thursday.
The man, identified only as Ahmad H. in line with German privacy rules, was arrested in Bremen on Wednesday, federal prosecutors said. He is suspected of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes by torture and enslavement.
Between 2012 and 2015, the suspect was a local leader of a militia loyal to the government of President Bashar Assad in the Damascus suburb of Tadamon which was tasked with working with Syrian military intelligence to repress attempts at opposition, prosecutors said in a statement. They said the militia ran checkpoints and carried out arbitrary arrests, which it used to extort money, torture people or force them to work.
The suspect was personally involved in abusing civilians on various occasions, prosecutors said. In one case in 2013, he is alleged to have hit an arrested man in the face and ordered fellow militia members to torment him for hours with plastic pipes.
In 2014, he and others allegedly beat and kicked a civilian at a checkpoint, slamming his head onto the sidewalk and then tying him up before he was taken away by the militia. Between 2012 and 2015, prosecutors said, the suspect twice arrested 25 to 30 people at a checkpoint and forced them to spend a day taking sandbags to a nearby front line, where they worked under fire without food or water and were beaten.
Prosecutors didn’t specify when or how the man came to Germany. A judge on Thursday ordered him kept in custody pending a possible indictment.
Germany’s application of the rule of “universal jurisdiction,” allowing the prosecution of serious crimes committed abroad, led last year to the first conviction of a senior Syrian official for crimes against humanity.
And in February, a German court convicted a Palestinian man from Syria of a war crime and murder for launching a grenade into a crowd of civilians waiting for food in Damascus in 2014.