We’re back today for a short but important update: The German Federal Court rejected Eyad A.’s appeal arguments following his conviction in February 2021.
In this bonus episode, Fritz summarizes the appeals court’s decision and relates it to the wider significance of the Al-Khatib Trial.
What does the decision mean for Eyad A. himself, and the time he will still have to spend in prison? And what does it mean for the overall struggle for justice and accountability for Syria, especially in these times of the so-called ‘normalization’ of the Assad regime?
S2E6: Judgement - available in audio and text transcript here: https://www.branch251podcast.com/episode/s2e6-judgement
BONUS - The Verdict Against Eyad A. - available in audio and text transcript here: https://www.branch251podcast.com/episode/bonus-the-verdict-against-eyad-a
S3E6: Sentenced, For Life - available in audio and text transcript here: https://www.branch251podcast.com/episode/s3e6-sentenced-for-life
Fritz: Hi everyone, It’s been a while since we last put an episode out after the final judgment in the case against Anwar R. back in January. Although we wrapped up our podcast, we thought of coming back today for a short but important update.
My name is Fritz Streiff, one of the hosts of the Branch 251 podcast, and this is an update regarding the Al Khateeb Trial.
This week, as you might have heard or read, the highest German federal court published its decision in the appeals case of Anwar R.’s co-accused Eyad A.
You’ll remember that the judgment in his case came in about 10 months into the Koblenz trial, on 24 February 2021. It was the first judgment in a criminal case against former Syrian regime officials for crimes against humanity.
The court decided exactly that: The Syrian regime has committed crimes against humanity. And Eyad A. was one of the regime’s willing executioners of a widespread and systematic attack on the civilian population.
It was a big day for many, especially Syrian victims and/ or witnesses who were involved in building the case and participating in the trial. And at the same time it was the start of an intense discussion among many who were following what was happening in the Koblenz courtroom.
You might remember, many were wondering whether convicting a relatively low-ranking regime officer - sort of as a symbol for the much much larger and wider crimes of the regime - was the right, was the moral thing to do.?!
We discussed this on the podcast at the time, and took a closer look at this debate, which really went to the heart of the question of what justice is and what it can deliver in a limited legal context. If you want to listen back: you will find a link to the episode in the written description of this one., we.
Just now, in late April 2022, the German Federal Court decided that the Koblenz judges made no mistake in law when they found Eyad A. guilty. He had appealed the length of his sentence, but the appeals court referred to the Koblenz court’s correct interpretation and application of the law. It had lowered Eyad A.’s sentence at the time, because he had indeed helped the prosecutor’s case against his co-accused Anwar R. by providing information and evidence against him. And they took that into consideration when determining the length of his sentence: A relatively low 4 years and 6 months many on the other side of the debate argued - for a conviction for crimes against humanity.
With the appeals judges’ decision, the judgment in Eyad A. 's individual case is now absolutely final, there are no more options to appeal except the Constitutional Court, which seems unlikely in this case, though you never know.
Eyad A. will likely be able to leave prison relatively soon. He got a now confirmed 4 years and 6 months sentence in total. It’s been more than a year since the judgment in his case. Add to that the time he spent in pre-trial detention, which was also more than a year, and the time he spent in detention during the 10 months of his trial. With the possibility to apply for early release, he could be a free man soon. What that might mean for him and his family is another question, which we also took a closer look at in our final season of Branch 251 podcast. You will find a link to it in the written description of this episode to. It is titled ‘Sentenced, For Life’, which I suppose says it all.
On a final note, and zooming out again of Eyad A.’s individual case, we can also now finally state - in confirmed legal terms - that the Syrian regime indeed committed crimes against humanity when crushing the early period of the Syrian revolution. The Koblenz judges decided this in February 2021 in what I found then, and still find, a carefully crafted and well argued decision. Now this has been confirmed by the highest appeals court.
It is a legal fact. And an important reminder to any and all states, international organizations, and media in these times of the so-called ‘normalization’ of the Assad regime: This is not a normal but a deeply, unspeakably cruel criminal regime.
Away from Branch 251 but not too far from trials and courts related to crimes against humanity in Syria, we at 75 Podcasts are now working on a brand new podcast which we will publish soon, stay tuned!