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Syria war: Germany charges Syrian doctor with torture and crimes against humanity

'Alaa M' stands accused on several counts for his actions while working in a government-run prison in Homs between 2011 and 2012
The courtroom as seen at the start of a trial against two Syrian defendants accused of state-sponsored torture in Syria, on 23 April 2020 in Koblenz, western Germany. (AFP)

A Syrian doctor living in Germany has been charged with crimes against humanity - including torture and one case of murder - for his role in the Syria war, German prosecutors said on Wednesday. 

The suspect, identified as Alaa M, was first charged in June 2020 with torturing detainees when he worked inside a prison run by the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian city of Homs in 2011. 

Under Germany's regulations regarding privacy, defendants' surnames are not made public.

The Syrian doctor was later charged with other crimes, including the killing of one person and 18 counts of torture. 

German prosecutor documents state that Alaa M allegedly worked in military hospitals in Homs and Damascus between 2011 and 2012.

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The documents list gruesome torture claims, including reportedly setting fire to the genitals of a teenager.

Alaa M also allegedly beat a prisoner, poured flammable liquid on his wounds before setting them on fire, and kicked him in the face so hard that three of his teeth had to be replaced. 

In another instance, the doctor allegedly tortured a detainee who has epilepsy by punching him in the face, beating him with a pipe, and kicking him in the head. 

A few days later, the man died shortly after taking a tablet given to him by Alaa M - but the cause of death remains unclear. 

German court documents indicate that Alaa M left Syria in 2015 and moved to Germany, where he began practising as a doctor.

Claims of torture against Alaa M were first revealed in a joint investigation between Al Jazeera Arabic and German newspaper Der Spiegel. 

His prosecution is the latest in a series of cases pursued by Germany against alleged abuses committed in Syria. 

Earlier this year, Germany became the first country in the world to charge someone for crimes related to war crimes perpetrated by Assad's government. 

Eyad al-Gharib, 44, a former Syrian intelligence officer, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for his role in the arrests of at least 30 protesters in the city of Douma in 2011, taking them to the al-Khatib detention centre in Damascus where they were tortured. 

The conflict in Syria has killed at least 500,000 people since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of peaceful demonstrations by forces loyal to Assad.

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