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 legal action against them Military intelligence initiated.

For the first time, a German citizen is taking legal action against Syrian officials for torture. A spokesperson for the attorney general confirmed that a criminal complaint had been lodged. Martin Lautwein had paid for this after his confinement in a Syrian prison, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), which supported him, said. Lautwein was held in a military prison in Damascus for seven weeks in 2018. Initially, the S├╝dwestrundfunk, the Westdeutsche Rundfunk and the “S├╝ddeutsche 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 and taken to a military prison. There he was tortured, he told the 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. The federal attorney general has known the facts for two years and is under investigation, the spokesman said. He could not say anything about the status of the investigation on Tuesday.

With the help of ECCHR, Lautwein joined a complaint filed by 13 Syrian torture victims, 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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