BERLIN (AP) - A former member of Syrian President Bashar Assad's secret police was convicted Wednesday by a German court of facilitating the torture of prisoners in a landmark ruling that human rights activists hope will set a precedent for other cases.
Eyad Al-Gharib was convicted of accessory to crimes against humanity and sentenced by the Koblenz state court to 4 1/2 years in prison, the dpa news agency reported.
It was the first time that a court outside Syria ruled in a case alleging Syrian government officials committed crimes against humanity. German prosecutors invoked the principle of universal jurisdiction for serious crimes to bring the case that involved victims and defendants who were in Germany.
Details of the ruling were not immediately available, but Al-Gharib could have been sentenced to more than a decade behind bars. However judges considered his defection and court testimony as mitigating factors.
The 44-year-old was accused of being part of a unit that arrested people following anti-government protests in the Syrian city of Douma and took them to a detention center known as Al Khatib, or Branch 251, where they were tortured.
Evidence reviewed during the trial included photographs of thousands of alleged victims of torture by the Syrian government. The images were smuggled out of Syria by a police officer.
Syrian government officials did not testify during the trial.