Suspect in Syria killings faces German war crimes charges
BERLIN (AP) — A man who allegedly launched a grenade into a crowd of civilians waiting for food in Damascus in 2014, killing at least seven people, has been charged in Germany with war crimes and murder, prosecutors said Thursday.
The stateless man, identified only as Moafak D. in line with German privacy rules, was a member of the Free Palestine Movement, one of the groups that at the time controlled the Yarmouk district of the Syrian capital on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, federal prosecutors said in a statement.
They said that, on March 23, 2014, the suspect launched a grenade from an anti-tank weapon into a crowd in the district’s Rejeh Square who were waiting for food aid from UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees. At least seven people were killed and three wounded, including a 6-year-old child.
The Yarmouk district, which grew out of a Palestinian refugee camp, was cordoned off by the Syrian government from July 2013 to April 2015, causing shortages of food, water and medical supplies.
The suspect was arrested in Berlin on Aug. 4. Prosecutors didn’t say how or when he came to Germany. He has been charged at a regional court in the German capital with war crimes, seven counts of murder, three of attempted murder and three of bodily harm.
Germany’s application of the rule of “universal jurisdiction,” allowing the prosecution of serious crimes committed abroad, led in January to the first conviction of a senior Syrian official for crimes against humanity.
The Berlin court will now have to decide whether to bring Moafak D.’s case to trial.