German court convicts Palestinian man for 2014 war crime, murder in Syria
Moafak D., 55, sentenced to life in prison for launching grenade into crowd of civilians waiting for food in Damascus, killing four
BERLIN — A German court on Thursday convicted a Palestinian man from Syria of a war crime and murder for launching a grenade into a crowd of civilians waiting for food in Damascus in 2014. He was sentenced to life in prison.
The 55-year-old, identified only as Moafak D. in line with German privacy rules, was arrested in 2021 in Berlin, where he had been living as a refugee. His trial opened in August.
The German capital’s district court found that on March 23, 2014, the defendant launched a grenade from an anti-tank weapon into the crowd in the Yarmouk district of Damascus, killing four people and seriously wounding two others.
It said that he was the commander of a checkpoint for a Palestinian group, probably the Free Palestine Movement, and on the day in question also was supposed to be overseeing the distribution of food packages by the UN Relief and Works Agency, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
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 court said the defendant acted out of revenge against civilians in the district after his 25-year-old nephew was killed two days earlier by shots fired by opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
He was convicted of a particularly serious war crime, four counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and bodily harm. The court also determined that he bears particularly severe guilt, meaning that he won’t be eligible for release after 15 years as is usually the case in Germany.
The verdict can be appealed.
Germany’s application of the rule of “universal jurisdiction,” allowing the prosecution of serious crimes committed abroad, led last year to the first conviction of a senior Syrian official for crimes against humanity.