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At least 7 arrested in Germany and Sweden on suspicion of committing war crimes in Syria

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — At least seven people have been arrested in Germany and Sweden on suspicion of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria in 2012-2014, authorities in the two countries said Wednesday.

In a coordinated effort that also involved the European Union judicial cooperation agency Eurojust, the EU police agency Europol, and several other unnamed European countries, four were arrested in Germany and three in Sweden.

The German federal prosecutor said that those arrested in Germany were “strongly suspected of killing and attempting to kill civilians.” Some of those arrested also were suspected of torture.

The four arrested in Germany are known only as Jihad A., Mahmoud A., Sameer S. and Wael S. and had been affiliated with the Free Palestine Movement, an armed militia in Syria, since early 2011. German prosecutors did not give their last names in line with privacy rules. Sweden did not identify the three it arrested.

At the time, the militia exercised control over Damascus’ mostly Palestinian district of al-Yarmouk on behalf of the Syrian regime, Germany’s federal prosecutor said. Since July 2013, the Syrian regime had cordoned off the area completely, resulting in a shortage of food, water, and medical supplies.

Among other crimes, all suspects allegedly participated in the violent crackdown of a peaceful anti-government protest in al-Yarmouk on July 13, 2012, specifically targeting civilian protesters by shooting at them. Six individuals died while others were seriously injured, the German statement said.

Germany’s federal prosecutor alleged that some of them also abused civilians from al-Yarmouk severely and repeatedly. The events occurred between mid-2012 and 2014.

In one case, an individual was handed over to the Syrian Military Intelligence Service, which reportedly incarcerated and tortured him. In another case, a woman was allegedly forced to pay with her family jewels for the release of her minor son, and was threatened with rape.

Three of those arrested — Jihad A., Sameer S. and Wael S. — are stateless Syrian Palestinians, while Mazhar J. is a Syrian national.

The four were arrested in Berlin, in Frankenthal and near Boizenburg, in southwestern and northeast Germany, respectively. The home of another suspect, whose name was not given and who was not arrested, was searched in the western city of Essen.

They are due to be brought before an investigating judge at the Federal Court of Justice, who will read out their arrest warrants and decide on pre-trial detention. The arraignment will take place Monday and Tuesday, the prosecutor’s statement said.

In Sweden, the Prosecution Authority gave no details regarding those arrested. The prosecution authority said it must be decided before noon Saturday whether they should be detained or released.

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Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this report.

By JAN M. OLSEN
Associated Press

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