[sound of logging into an online meeting]
Pauline Peek: Hello?
Saleem Salameh: Hi!
Fritz Streiff: Hello!
Noor Hamadeh: Oh! You guys are in the same place!
Asser Khattab: My colleagues, Fritz, Hannah, and Saleem went to Koblenz this week.
Pauline: What is the weather like in Koblenz?
Asser: They were there for the verdict against Eyad A.
Saleem: It's 18 degrees. It's very hot.
Asser: After 62 days in court with proceedings spanning over 11 months, the judges in Koblenz sentenced him to four-and-a-half years in prison. He is now officially the first Syrian regime official to be convicted for their actions since the beginning of the uprising.
Saleem: The emotion of hearing something in the language that is my mother tongue and a language I really understand-- That might sound pretty romantic. It really meant so much to me. I can just imagine what it meant to other people who are even more involved in this.
Asser: This trial wouldn't have been possible without the work of so many Syrians who worked tirelessly to make something happen that had never happened before.
It's historic. It's symbolic.
Fritz: Dear listeners, this is Fritz and Hannah standing in front of the courthouse. We just left the courthouse about a half an hour, 45 minutes ago and just wanted to tell you in a very summarizing way what happened today.
Then, next week, we will dive a little bit deeper into the verdict of today and what was said, how the judges today explained the verdict. We will analyze that in more detail. Just about today, Hannah, maybe you can take it from there?
Hannah: We were here really, really earlier. I think you guys were here at 6:00 AM. I took some more time, got some coffee, and arrived later. Normally, we're five people visiting the court as the audience and press.
Today, there were far more than 50 people at least. There were some people who didn't get in. I think a lot, around 57, were allowed inside. That was different than the usual. Everyone was really waiting to see what this first verdict would be like.
When we were inside the courtroom, there was a positive surprise. As we've talked about before, it has been an issue that there has been no translation into Arabic. Today, for the first time, the whole verdict was actually read out in German and then consecutively translated for the audience into Arabic.
Fritz: That was really a positive surprise. We only heard about it right there. A lot of Syrians in the audience were able to understand exactly what the judge was saying. That was great. Then what happened, Hannah?
Hannah: Well, they started out by saying that he's convicted to four-and-a-half years imprisonment for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity. Then, they explained that in about one-and-a-half hours, which mainly focused on the context. I think that's something that we have seen more often in this trial, that a lot has been focusing on the context to prove the crimes against humanity. I think nobody has any doubts about that anymore.
The judge, again, repeated what exactly the regime was doing against the population and what happened to the people who got arrested arbitrarily. A far shorter paragraph of her verdict concerned Eyad A's position in all this. She also confirmed that he did play a role. He could have somehow gotten out of his work, and he had chosen that work voluntarily. He even asked to be transferred back to an operative branch, as like the Branch 251 and its religious department, after having had some office job that he considered boring.
They were convinced of his guilt. Since he's already been in prison for, I guess, two years, he's going to have to serve another two-and-a-half years if there is no successful appeal, because right after the trial, his defense lawyers actually said they will appeal.
Not everyone was happy, because for the first time, we actually heard something from Eyad A's family. His son and his cousin were there. In the name of the family, they said that they believe he is innocent, and they will do everything to prove his innocence. His cousin actually emphasized that from their family as well, so many people are missing.
They are totally for the trial and for releasing all detainees. They just don't want their relative, Eyad A, being counted as one of the regime criminals, but as one of the oppositionists. They were, of course, very disappointed by this verdict. They said that they're hoping that it will be possible to change it by appealing.
Fritz: When we walked out of the courtroom, there was a lot of press, a lot of media attention. What we heard from Syrian activists that have been following this trial and have been pushing for justice and accountability for Syria for so long, we learned that this is really seen as an important signal, in the sense that this is the first time that there's a tangible result of these efforts towards justice for Syria ever after all these years.
We're talking about allegations and now crimes found by a court that are almost already 10 years ago. It's been a long time. They're seeing this as an important signal, as an important step. At the same time, we also heard colleagues emphasize that they appreciated the judge making it explicit that Eyad A today was not convicted as a representative or in place of the Assad regime that orchestrated this systematic and widespread attack against its own civilian population, but for his own acts and for his own limited contributions to this structure.
In that sense, I think they see this also as a fair verdict. I think more next week on a more detailed episode, where we'll take some time to dissect some of these questions and update you further. Until then, listeners, this is all from Koblenz from us. See you next week.
Hannah: See you then.
[00:07:46] [END OF AUDIO]