Martin Lautwein is said to have been tortured in a Syrian prison for weeks. Other prisoners were apparently murdered before his very eyes. Now the German has taken legal action against military intelligence.

For the first time, a German citizen is taking legal action against Syrian officials for torture. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), which supported him, announced that Martin Lautwein had filed a complaint with the federal prosecutor after his imprisonment in a Syrian prison. Lautwein was held in a military prison in Damascus for seven weeks in 2018. Initially, West and North German radio and “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported on the case.

Lautwein worked in Iraq and Syria for an aid organization setting up medical infrastructure. According to the report, he was arrested along with an Australian colleague in a bazaar in Syria. He was tortured in prison, he told media. During the interrogation, he was charged with working for a foreign secret service, which he denies. He also saw other prisoners beaten and murdered. “It’s mainly about breaking people,” he said.

Lautwein joined 13 Syrians

The two colleagues were released after 48 days. The report says the Czech Republic has negotiated the release – the country was the only EU country to have an embassy in Syria. With the help of ECCHR, Lautwein joined a complaint by 13 Syrians originally filed in March 2017. It is aimed at senior officials of Syrian Military Intelligence.

“Lautwein’s statement is important to come to terms with the crimes in Syria,” said Patrick Kroker, head of the Syrian team at ECCHR. “Until now, witnesses have mainly been able to report acts up to 2015, but his case proves that the same conditions prevailed in 2018 – probably still is.” The world’s first trial against Syrians responsible for state torture has been underway in Koblenz since April.

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