A Syrian doctor living in Germany has been arrested on suspicion of carrying out crimes against humanity at a Bashar Assad regime prison in his war-torn country of origin, prosecutors said Monday.
The suspect, identified as Alaa M., is accused of having "tortured a detainee ... in at least two cases" at a prison run by the Syrian intelligence services in the city of Homs in 2011, said German federal prosecutors in a statement.
Alaa M. was called to the assistance of a man who had suffered an epileptic fit after being detained for taking part in a protest, the statement said.
He then proceeded to beat the man with a plastic pipe. "Even after he had gone down, Alaa M. continued the beatings and additionally kicked the victim," the statement said.
The next day, Alaa M. and another doctor are said to have subjected the victim to further beatings. He later died, though the cause of death is unclear.
Alaa M. left Syria in mid-2015 and moved to Germany, where he also practiced as a doctor.
Syria's civil war, which started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests, has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced nearly half the country's pre-conflict population.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group estimates that at least 100,000 people have died from torture or as a result of horrific conditions in government prisons.
Previously, a former Syrian army photographer, known by the pseudonym "Caesar," fled the country in 2013, taking with him some 55,000 photographs documenting abuse and torture.
The photos Caesar brought out of Syria show people with their eyes gouged out, emaciated bodies, people with wounds on their backs or stomachs, and also a picture of hundreds of corpses lying in a shed surrounded by plastic bags used for burials.
Already in 2012, Human Rights Watch said Syria was holding tens of thousands of detainees in a "torture archipelago."
It documented 27 detention facilities nationwide used to hold people swept up in the government's crackdown on protesters.
Witnesses described torture, including beatings, the use of electricity or car battery acid, sexual assault and mock executions.
Back in June 2019, the Syrian Human Rights Network (SNHR) announced that over 14,000 civilians have died of torture since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011.
In April, the first court case worldwide over state-sponsored torture by Bashar Assad's regime opened in Germany.
The two defendants are being tried on the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity.
Germany has taken in more than 700,000 Syrian refugees since the start of the conflict.
Last year, five Syrian torture survivors living in Norway filed legal complaints against senior officials of the regime. The complaint filed by the Syrian nationals documented crimes committed by 17 senior officials connected to the regime's Military Intelligence, General Intelligence and Political and Criminal Security divisions.
Lawyers asked the Norwegian prosecutors to investigate these 17 intelligence officials and issue international arrest warrants.
One of the plaintiffs, who was detained by the Syrian General Intelligence and subjected to various torture techniques, said he wanted to see those responsible for Assad's torture system to stand trial.