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Ex-German detainee in Syria joins lawsuits against Assad regime torture

Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, Syria on 10 May 2010 [Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images]
Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, Syria on 10 May 2010 [Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images]

A German aid worker and former detainee in Syria has joined the lawsuit cases against the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad and the rampant torture conducted within its vast prison network, two years after his release through European intervention.

Martin Lautwein, a German citizen and aid worker, was arrested in 2018 by Syrian authorities in the north-eastern city of Qamishli while there on an aid mission. He was then taken, along with an Australian friend, to the Syrian Intelligence's Branch 235 near the capital Damascus, one of the many notorious prison facilities used by the regime.

In comments he made to the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) yesterday, he recalled that over the two days of his detainment he was tortured and made to feel like an "animal".

Due to the fact that he was not blindfolded during his detention, he was able to witness the treatment of numerous other inmates, which included multiple forms of torture, as well as rape and murder. Lautwein said that the Syrian regime's "aim was to break people with all means possible."

The reason he was detained by the authorities was due to allegations of him spying in Qamishli which, he said, was based on his close relationship with the Kurds who make up a majority of that city's population.

READ: Assad is in the dock as his henchmen go on trial for torture

After the two days passed, he was released along with his Australian friend due to his German passport and intervention from the Czech Republic, which was the only EU nation to keep its embassy in Damascus following the outbreak of the Syrian revolution and the regime's brutal crackdown.

Lautwein said:

I was only able to go home because of my German passport. Thousands of people have disappeared in Syria, minors, mothers and fathers were captured with me. I was probably treated better than any of them while in detention.

Two years after his detention and brief experience in the Syrian prison system, Lautwein has this week decided to join the lawsuits filed against the Syrian regime in 2017, and which resulted in the famed trial in the German city of Koblenz this year.

That landmark trial, which was the world's first such criminal trial for the Syrian regime's rampant torture, aims to prosecute former regime agents, doctors, soldiers and militiamen who were complicit in the torture and human rights abuses perpetrated in Syria. The lawsuits were formed by other survivors, as well as the self-exiled Syrian human rights lawyer Anwar Al-Bunni.

Lautwein told the ECCHR that after his experience, a "warm bed was waiting for me, doctors, a functioning social system" upon his return to Germany, "I want to use my privilege to make people in Germany aware of what happens every day in Syria."

READ: Syria survivor of torture in Assad prisons admitted to top US university

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