At least 7 arrests in Germany and Sweden on suspicion of committing war crimes in Syria


COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — At least seven people have been arrested in Germany and Sweden on suspicion of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria in 2012-2014, authorities in the two countries said Wednesday.

In a coordinated effort involving the European Union’s judicial cooperation agency, Eurojust, the EU police agency Europol and several other unnamed European countries, four people were arrested in Germany and three in Sweden.

The German federal prosecutor said those arrested in Germany “are strongly suspected of killing and attempting to kill civilians.” Some of those arrested were also suspected of torture.

The four arrested in Germany are known only as Jihad A., Mahmoud A., Sameer S. and Wael S. and had been affiliated with the Free Palestine Movement, an armed militia in Syria, since early 2011. German prosecutors did not provide their last names in line with privacy rules. Sweden has not identified the three it arrested.

At the time, the militia exercised control over the predominantly Palestinian al-Yarmouk district in Damascus on behalf of the Syrian regime, according to the German federal prosecutor. Since July 2013, the Syrian regime had completely cordoned off the area, resulting in a shortage of food, water and medical supplies.

Among other crimes, all suspects allegedly participated in the violent crackdown on a peaceful anti-government protest in al-Yarmouk on July 13, 2012, specifically targeting civilian protesters. Six people were killed and others seriously injured, the German statement said.

The German federal prosecutor alleged that some of them also severely and repeatedly abused civilians from al-Yarmouk. The events took place between mid-2012 and 2014.

In one case, an individual was handed over to Syrian Military Intelligence, who reportedly detained and tortured him. In another case, a woman was reportedly forced to pay for the release of her minor son with her family jewels and threatened with rape.

Three of those arrested – Jihad A., Sameer S. and Wael S. – are stateless Syrian Palestinians, while Mazhar J. is a Syrian citizen.

The four were arrested in Berlin, in Frankenthal and near Boizenburg, in southwestern and northeastern Germany respectively. The home of another suspect, who was not named and who was not arrested, was searched in the western city of Essen.

They will be brought before an investigating judge at the Federal Court of Justice, who will read out their arrest warrants and decide on pre-trial detention. The summons will take place on Monday and Tuesday, the prosecutor’s statement said.

In Sweden, the Public Prosecutor’s Office did not provide details about the detainees, saying it would decide by Saturday afternoon whether to detain or release them.


Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this report.

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