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German court convicts man over Syrian war crime from 2014

February 23, 2023

The defendant has been sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison over an attack that killed four people. Germany's rule of universal jurisdiction allows it to try people for crimes committed abroad.

The Berlin court were the trial was held
The defendant's conviction and sentencing can still be appealed

A court in the German capital sentenced a man to life imprisonment on Thursday after he was found guilty of having carried out an attack that killed several people in Syria over eight years ago.

The 55-year-old Palestinian, identified as Moafak D. in line with German privacy rules, was arrested in Berlin in 2021 after entering the country as a refugee.

The court found that the man killed four people in the Yarmouk district of the Syrian capital, Damascus, after firing a grenade into a crowd of people in March 2014.

He was also convicted of two counts of attempted murder and bodily harm. The court determined that the defendant bore particularly severe guilt, meaning that he will not be eligible for release for 15 years. But the decision may be appealed.

Tried under universal jurisdiction

The stateless man, who describes himself as Syrian Palestinian, was serving as the commander of a checkpoint for a Palestinian group on the day of the attack.

According to the prosecution, the grenade had been fired as an act of revenge after his 25-year-old nephew was killed two days earlier by the rebel Free Syrian Army.

The court said that he had been responsible for overseeing the distribution of food packages from the UN Relief and Works Agency, which works with Palestinian refugees.

Yarmouk grew out of a refugee camp for Palestinians. It saw intense fighting during the early stages of the Syrian civil war and was blockaded by the Syrian government between July 2013 and April 2015 which led to food and medicine shortages.

Germany justifies the prosecution of war crimes committed abroad under its rule of "universal jurisdiction," which led to the first case of a Syrian official being convicted of crimes against humanity by a German court last year.

State-sanctioned Torture on Trial

ab/sms (AP, dpa)