| 10 December 2023, Sunday |

Syrian-Palestinian man tried in Berlin on charges of war crimes

One year after his arrest, a Syrian-Palestinian defendant appeared before a Berlin regional court on Thursday over charges of war crimes he had committed in Syria in 2014.

The man, identified as Mouafak D. for privacy reasons, arrived in Berlin as a refugee in 2018 and was arrested in August 2021.

He has gone on trial in Germany accused of firing a rocket-propelled grenade into a group of civilians in Syria eight years ago, killing at least seven people, including one child.

Mouafak is charged with war crimes, seven counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and three counts of dangerous bodily harm.

On Thursday, the prosecution spoke in detail about the siege of the Yarmouk camp in Damascus by Palestinian factions loyal to the Syrian regime and how these factions imposed a starvation campaign on the camp’s residents.

At the time he committed his crime, Mouafak was a member of the Free Palestine Movement, and previously of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Palestine General Command.

Prosecutors recounted in detail how the defendant committed his crime when he intentionally fired an RPG at a group of civilians inside the camp while they were waiting for UN aid.

They claim the defendant sought revenge for the killing of his nephew two days earlier during a gun battle involving members of the Free Syrian Army rebel group.

Mouafak refused to defend himself, and his lawyers said that he would submit a written defense to the court, without specifying the date.

The lawyers spoke in detail about his family relations and ties in Syria, and stated that his niece and her husband were kidnapped during the war in Syria and are still missing.

They also stated that his nephew was killed in the Yarmouk camp.

Lawyer Anwar al-Bunni, founder of the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research, said Mouafak claimed he worked as a driver to bring aid into the camp, failing to state that he belonged to armed groups when he committed the crime.

Bunni, who prepared the file against Mouafak and handed it over to the German prosecution, said there is evidence to prove that the accused was a military man, and that the prosecution has photographs showing him wearing civilian clothes and carrying a weapon, adding that his defense will not last long in the face of evidence.

The German court set two hearing sessions per week until November 10 during which it will listen to 15 to 20 witnesses, including medical experts who treated the injured in the explosion caused by Mouafak in the Yarmouk camp.

Al-Bunni expected that the verdict in the case would be issued at the end of the year, noting that if proven, the charges against the Syrian-Palestinian suspect would be punishable by life imprisonment.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat