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French prosecutors seek life sentences in Syria war crime trial

By AFP

May 24, 2024 09:46 PM


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Prosecutors in France's first trial of officials from the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad said Friday they were seeking life sentences for three top security officers.

On the final day of the trial before the Paris Criminal Court they also asked for an international arrest warrant for the three, who are being tried in absentia for complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes, to remain in force.

The case against Ali Mamlouk, former head of the National Security Bureau, Jamil Hassan, ex-director of the Air Force intelligence service, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud, former head of investigations for the service in Damascus, is based on their role in the deaths of two French Syrian men, Mazzen Dabbagh and his son Patrick, arrested in Damascus in 2013.

At the time of his arrest, Patrick Dabbagh was a 20-year-old arts and humanities student at the University of Damascus. His father Mazzen was a senior education adviser at the French school in Damascus.

Ahead of the trial, the investigating judges said it was "sufficiently established" that the two men "like thousands of detainees of the Air Force intelligence suffered torture of such intensity that they died".

The two men were declared dead in 2018. The family was formally notified that Patrick died on January 21, 2014 and his father Mazzen on November 25, 2017.

In 2016, Mazzen Dabbagh's wife and daughter were evicted from their house in Damascus, which had been requisitioned. According to the prosecution, those acts were "likely to constitute war crimes, extortion and concealment of extortion".

War between the Assad government and armed opposition groups, including the Islamic State group, erupted after the repression of peaceful pro-democracy protests in 2011.

The conflict has killed more than half a million people, displaced millions, and ravaged Syria's economy and infrastructure.

Trials into abuses in Syria have taken place elsewhere in Europe, notably in Germany. In those cases, the people prosecuted held lower ranks and were present at the hearings.

The trial in Paris followed seven years of investigation carried out by a French judicial war crimes unit.


AFP


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