Syria refugees to face their torturers in German court

Six years ago Wassim Mukdad fled Syria, demoralized and fearing for his life as the country spiraled ever deeper into all-out war.

This week, the 34-year-old will come face-to-face with the man accused of running a government detention center where Mukdad and thousands of others were tortured during the early months of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Together with more than a dozen other witnesses, Mukdad will testify before a German court in the trial of Anwar R., a former member of Syria’s secret police suspected of overseeing the abuse of detainees at a notorious jail near Damascus known as Al Khatib, or Branch 251.

German prosecutors last fall charged the 57-year-old R., whose full surname wasn’t released for privacy reasons, with crimes against humanity, murder, and rape in a case that human rights activists say marks the first time worldwide that a former Syrian official is being held responsible for such serious crimes during the long-running conflict.