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Sunday, September 2, 2018

Tortured Detainee Denials

Fail Caesar, Part 11: 
Tortured Detainee Denials
September 2, 2018
rough, incomplete

They Blame Heart Attack, Illness... Terrorists... Torture
The hospital number was to cover-up the systematic murder, and link to a false death report blaming - universally - heart attack or breathing stopped. Sometimes they're said to blame a preventable illness. But they never blame neglect or abuse leading to the natural deaths, and they never credit torture or mass execution. After all, they always acknowledge the people WERE held in THEIR jails … or so it's implied.

2011 Heart Attack. Caused by Torture
The two earliest entries in the Caesar photos are in the May, 2011 folder - the only two to show how just weeks into the "peaceful protests" and "brutal crackdown", Assad's forces were already torturing detainees. One is a young man - AF intel prisoner j-201 from 5-2011. He's been identified as Zaher Ahmad Mubaied, 21, arrested at a checkpoint near Daraya and badly tortured, shown dead on opposition video (wisely, after he was seen in government hands) VDC says he died 2011-06-01 by Detention - Torture, and it lasted over a month. Notes:  "He was arrested on one of the security checkpoint on 28-4-2011 while he was going back from Somariah to Daraya, he was torture to death." Interestingly, the only thing we see of his custody is a "Caesar photo" of his body in the government's hospital, with heart testing electrodes (clearly the same lash marks, photo setting). They were checking if he was alive, maybe because they didn't know much about the apparently dead body found and processed - perhaps the first unknown body of the conflict found in the Damascus area.

The other of the two is the elderly (72?) Mahmoud al-Zoubi from Daraa is included as AF intel prisoner #j-000, at Hospital 601 presumably, in May, 2011 folder. This is not the former Prime Minister of Syria Mahmoud al-Zoubi from Daraa, who died almost exactly 11 years earlier, but they may be related. Below, that photo (right) compared to his appearance in a video (left). I made this ID myself from that, and remain totally confident of it. 

The forehead tape is blurred in the Caesar photos, in a shape matching the area of writing visible in the video. This - apparently - shows he was unidentified body #7, of at least 28 found, after murky events late on April 29 - (the day after Zaher's alleged arrest, as it happens, but in a different area). For some reason this was altered to- maybe just to obscure the implication of unidentified body? The mess here - best anyone can decipher - is a bizarre reading of his alleged death date, May 23, 2011 - after nearly a month of torturous detention. 

But really, he probably died on the a month earlier, and his body was left near the military housing compound near Saida, Daraa, along with famous boy victim Hamza al-Khatib.  

Activists claimed Hamza, Mahmoud, and several others were arrested on the 29th from a peaceful protest that was ambushed at Saida. Most or all were order to pray to Assad about a month in, but refused and were killed, then handed back to family the same day. But despite the stories, their bodies as seen on video (nine cases analyzed) clearly suggest they had spent about a month dead, slowly decaying in deep refrigeration.

The government detention-torture stories must be untrue. Or, is there some other logical reason for what we see, some "green torso torture?" At right is Hamza on May 25, half-green on the day they say he was killed, compared to a clearly false claim about Hamza's heroic last act earlier that day, from a very dubious alleged witness.

Anyway, Hamza is not included in the Caesar photos, nor is any of the other 9 victims I recognize, aside from the oldest one, Mahmoud. He's claimed as a tortured detainee with the rest. A video released at that time shows his body, which is one of two that's not so clear on advanced decay (it's possible he died later, or it's just not as evident). The video hosts related helpfully how the sheikh was killed for refusing to accept Bashar Assad as his god.

And they show an official paper related to his death, perhaps an unauthorized copy, dated May 23. The decay issue is less clear in his case, but this is probably the date of body release, not of death. It's a date activist wanted to emphasize, judging by the forehead writing. But the paper cites the prior autopsy findings (which should be from the end of April, if he's truly part of the event with Hamza, as alleged, rather than tacked-on later). Date aside, it says:
    سبب الوفاة توقف القلب (الناتج): التالي لشدة نفسية ناجمة عن العنف والتعذيب

Heart attack due to psychological distress caused by violence and "torture". 

This is apparently taken as an admission of the detention-torture story that the general decay of the victims proves is untrue. But this probably refers to "torture" by the "terrorists" who must have killed him - and perhaps Hamza, and the others. Reports at the time seemed unsure if Hamza was killed in the gun battle at the housing compound, or in another way, and labored to deny any signs of torture (perhaps wrongly). If they did see or note torture on him or any of the others, they would have to conclude it was the terrorists, who then dumped their victims, stripped of ID and probably naked, for the government to process as unknowns, numbered 1-28.

2013, Qatana: Worries, Rumors, Acknowledgments
This VDC report on 2013 admissions or alerts of alleged death of Branch 227 prisoners from the was interesting reading. In total, four incidents in the Damascus area are covered, in mostly-chronological order. For effect, we'll do it a bit different, with special focus on the second episode. As listed by the same group, and well-informed in a sense, these cover 66 men with murky ends - several who may well be included in the "Caesar photos" as well, and one that definitely is. 

March 24, 2013: Heart Attack, NOT Torture
14 victims identified -apparently without family help - and their families were alerted. "Members of the leadership of the military police in Kaboun handed over a list containing the names of fourteen martyrs of the sons of the city of Qatana - Damascus, died under torture in the Branch – 227 of military security." As if the list itself said that. 

But surprise, "When the families went to Kaboun they inquired about the cause of death, but the members of the military police responded that the causes of death were different, including heart attack, angina, and denied that any of them had died under torture." Those tricky devils.  "When families asked about the whereabouts of the bodies to receive and bury, members said and literally "they are in Tishren Military Hospital, go search for them there" It's not clear if they did so, or just how much of that is true. 

VDC lists 14 names, Qatana torture deaths 3-24-2013
- 2 named Buqaee, 
- 2 named Awad  (displaced by someone, from Golan), 
- Basher Esam Shuqer (detained Feb. 8 - see below)
- Ayham Ahmad Omran was identified in 2015 in the Caesar photos as 227-415 (1-11-2012). "a 25 year old single Petroleum Engineer, who was in prison before under accusation of humiliating the national feeling and conspiring to overthrow the ruling regime."
"About his arresting circumstances, al-Qatanani mentioned that a sergeant in the military security branch in the town of Qatana
known as Abo Saeed called Ayham for a matter and arrested him for no clear reason, and his death’s news reached to Qatana, but
al-Qatanani was not sure about the photo of his body."  (Zaman al-Wasl)

June 5-20, 2013: Some Illness
In June, there were notes citing as unspecified disease caught in the 227 prison, Jdaidet Artuz area many similar cases were recorded in Branch 227, including a number of Christians and Palestinians, Activist "Abu Asi" a member of a Jdaidat Artouz coordination said in his testimony to VDC." He says "the last time on 06/20/2013 municipality delivered some of the names to mayor "Ibrahim Adarir", the info "included in addition to the names of the victims, a number of the body, and also the cause of death of alleged to be some diseases in Branch 227 - Damascus." 

VDC lists 10 share a note to this effect, listed June 5, 6, and 20, all from the Jdaidet Artuz area. They weren't fooled by the disease talk, and list them as dying from torture. Two are named Marbia, one a taxi driver and the other probably not. This happens frequently. It's not clear how, but perhaps the mobile one is caught first, and the other is taken in only after a phone call to bring cash quickly... It's said the bodies were not handed over, just their things. 

Side-Notes on Artuz, Christians, Taxi Drivers, Brothers
VDC has 10 Christians listed that way and also as tortured martyrs. In Jdaidet Artuz, two such, working as workers somewhere, were killed or listed the same day in this span, 2013-05-18: Fadi Yousef Lutfy, 32 and Eid Nizar Tarben, 36. Not much detail given. They're not on the above list as dying from illness, and the branch isn't specified. 

Also listed, out of our scope but interesting: Emad Anton Khabazeh, a Christian taxi driver up in Aleppo was listed in July 2013 as "martyred under torture in the Political Security branch in Aleppo after his arrest on charges of cooperation with the FSA / / / Christian" That's how solid the Christians were against Assad. And the guy was tough. They tortured and tortured, but never did get any info on who he was helping to sneak across the Turkish border - voluntarily of course. 

Consider a Zaman al-Wasl (Lebanon) report on Ahmad Shehadeh Shanwan, a taxi driver from Damascus area, taken and killed by Air Force intelligence, on an unclear trip between Homs, the Jordanian border, and the Shia-majority Damascus suburb of Sayida Zainab - "voluntarily as is its custom in late 2011." It sounds like he was detained closest to Sayida Zainab, which is near Daraya, Artuz, these other areas around the west fringes of Damascus we're considering. The VDC apparently doesn't list him or any relatives as detained or killed (I tried for Arabic, different spellings, areas, etc. and even found a near-matching clan, Shahin, but their Ahmed seems to younger, and an "FSA" fighter), but Zaman al-Wasl ran the pic, got an ID, and lists 2 brothers also detained. The photo they published for Ahmed appears in the Caesar photos as "anonymous (unknown) branch" 648 1-7-2012. Analysis suggests he has no known prisoner number, and is unidentified body #648.

Back to the VDC report: one man they heard from claims he was one of those taken in then from Jdaidet Artouz in these days Abdul Rauf, 26, "with reservation on the detention and release dates and full name for security reasons," related all about the horrors at a couple of different prisons: "everyone was standing on his feet, and we slept while standing. ... Beatings was on a daily basis, especially beating on legs "Falaka"... swollen legs and chronic skin diseases, … one of the detainees who had been tortured severely till his skin was disintegrated, then they put him in the garbage barrel for many hours, and then they throw in the bathrooms corridor "toilet" and his skin was so much rotten with a bad smell out of his wounds , and soon he was dead.  … the smell of rotten human flesh because of sores and prevalent diseases and the temperature was very high. ...  I think that the number of those who die as a result of the disease is equal to or slightly higher than the number of those who are dying under of torture ."  

June 9, 2013: Biological Warfare Massacre Averted?
In another case on June 9, families were invited to claim somehow identified bodies, but the VDC heard the bodies were "rotten and contagious because of the disease spread among the detainees so the families were afraid to go there because of that disease and the [fear] of getting detained , the bodies are still there and we don’t know what happened to them." (for this they list 20 men from a few families from Qadam). 

An Official Acknowledgement?
An official letter said to relate to this is shown in the VDC report. Local Coordinating Committees logo on the photo of it. The header date looks strange, but seems reasonable: 201_/d/m, filled in 3/6/6. As cited in the report, it says:

“No objection to handing the dead body of the arrested (name is hidden) who died on 20th 11 2012... with body No.(hidden) by the intelligence department /Branch 227, due to the letter from the aforementioned Branch and in case of burial, to give his family a legal letter of death”

Staff Colonel Ra’eif Abdulsalam: Head of Investigation Department 

This letter makes no mention of disease, torture, or anything as to cause of death, but they do seem to know the death date. And it refers to a "detainee." (I don't suppose the word used can be ambiguous?) The letter says they have "no objection" to returning the bodies, but somehow this didn't always happen. In these cases, it never seems to.

May 31, 2013: The True Story?
But interesting as all that is, the second cited case at the end of May stands out. About a week before  the letter cited above was sent around, again in Qatana, news surfaced of 19 locals killed, allegedly under torture in the 227 branch. Citing activist "Khal Abu Ahmed" the report states:

“Two days or three before the second list of names, news leaked among the families that there is a new list contains many of names of martyrs who have died under torture, and the detachment of military security in the Katana is the source of this leakage, but the families did not take it seriously, where they thought they only broadcast terror in the hearts of activists." 

Were the officials really the primary source for these rumors? That's presumed, but other parties might be slipping tidbits they shouldn't know, themselves having some interest in terrorizing some people in their areas of attempted control. Right? 

But as the report says, a couple days later, on May 31, that new list appeared. A letter was sent from Qaboun "to the Municipal Council of Qatana "containing the names of 19 martyrs and asked them [families?] to also go to the leadership of the military police in Kaboun to receive their stuff." "Among the names of the victims there were many persons from Golan south of Syria, who fled to the city." The VDC eventually got 22 names for Qatana, 5-31-2013 torture deaths noted so:

"Martyred in the regime's military police's branch 227 (district branch), the families were informed of the prisoner's death through the municipal office by the military police members, the martyr's personal stuff and ID were handed to them, but the bodies are not yet received by the family."

So they got them to come in, and said "sorry, those guys we arrested just got sick, or died of "heart failure" right? This is how we're told the system worked. But in this case, the report explains:

Families went the detachment of military security in the city asking about the reason for the death of their sons, the answer of detachment members was as follows: "You know the terrorist armed groups kidnaped them and killed them." 

This is something I can totally see them saying, something that I suspect is the truth. The Syrian side has been quite silent about the possible content of the photographs (see here), aside from an early statement by the Syrian Ministry of Justice that the photos showed "unidentified persons" killed in the foreign-backed violence. Some were militants killed in clashes, they said (few if any of those I've seen look like that), and others were "civilians and military personnel who were tortured and killed by the armed terrorist groups because of their support to the state." A vest majority of those I've seen do look like they could be just such people. 

But here we're considering bodies identified and offered back in 2013, not those hidden away and documented only secretly with the Caesar photos. Some of those listed:

- Six listed as displaced (by whom?) from Golan: Mahmoud Mousa Khames, Ahmad Ismael Khames (both from Golan, Hawadja tribe), Ammar al-Haj Tayser (photo), Omar Abdelbari al-Najjar, Mohammad Adel Basouneh, Mamoun Mohammad Al-Awad ("another source said his name is Mamon Mohammad Awad Sharabi" The 3-24 batch contained 2 men named Awad, both noted as Golanis as well)

Jamal Abdo Hamoud: civilian like the rest ("another source said that he was an Army Officer") 

- Mahmoud al-Sheikh: age 68, photo. Notes: "Known as (Abo Abdo al-Mondalan),Arrested on 1/5/2013, he is the father of the martyr Rasheed al-Sheikh, Martyred in the regime's military police's branch 227..."

- Khaldoun Abdo Shuqear: Arrested on 1/10/2012). From the ID card and previously reported ID, I can be sure he's also included in Caesar photos, as disappeared detainee 227-663, 1-11-2012. He has (unidentified body?) number H#2538 (from another photo I have - no need to show here).

Zaman al-Wasl (Lebanon) reported in 2015 Even disabled die under torture in Assad’s prisons: Caesar’s photos. The man "called Khaldoon Abdo Shokair … suffered of difficulties in speaking and deformation in his face and legs which limited his movement, therefore he needed to used a small modified motorcycle to move in Qatana." As far as I can tell his mind was fine. He was "married and a father of one daughter," and got arrested by Assad's thugs from his work in a local bakery on October 1. (this useful article offers other photo matches from Qatana, which I'll be comparing to these early reports and adding to the post)

- Ziad Shuqair: an apparent relative (arrest date not noted)

- Asem Haytham Shuqaer: another apparent relative (Arrested on 1/12/2013 - a year later? no - mixed date formats. January 12.)

Recall another Shuqair was reported killed on March 24, just taken in in February. It's not clear how the authorities belatedly attained these four ID of men from the same family, other than from their relatives. But here, they know first and alert the families. Did someone who knew the case even better give them a belated tip?

- Majd al-Taki (Abo Ayman) is listed. In 2015, he would be identified as 227-1498 (3-2013) "...the second victim who had a sticker of number 1498 on his front. He was 38 years old, married and had two daughters, according to al-Qatanani.  Abo Ayman was a carpenter, arrested at one of regime’s barriers under accusation of distributing aid. “I know him in person, he was a good and respected man, his death under torture was a shock for us” al-Qatanani said. (Zaman al-Wasl)

- A Husam Doha is listed. An Ammar Idnan Doha would be listed on June 20 an in 2015. 227-410 (1-11-2012) was identified as Adham Dhoha, 26, dentistry student. "Al-Qatanani mentioned that Dhoha was arrested because of medical equipment were found in his field , and his death was announce a month after arresting." (Zaman al-Wasl)

Now consider the above cases in light of this list, from observation, of who among the Syrian people terrorists might kidnap, kill, and perhaps torture along the way:
- soldiers, police, all forces of order, on or off-duty
- non-Sunnis
- non-Salafist Sunnis
- Informers, anyone who opposes them, supports the government
- people who wouldn't make good fighter anyway
- people who would make great fighters, but refuse
- victims of robbery and witnesses to other crimes (including people who bring ransom money for someone else)

Those they'd like to have "Assad" seen as killing, and so might kill for little or no other reason:
- the above, if possible, especially:
- those Syria has championed; Palestinians, Golanis: this shows the Islamist uprising and global jihad are their salvations, not outmoded secular regimes
- peaceful, promising, known activists who reject Islamism and militancy: this keeps the Islamist militants off the hook, and makes the turn to violent Islamism that favors them seem to be "Assad's fault."
- young, old, chubby, disabled: no threat, but killed anyway. This proves the mindless evil the growing and decreasingly opposed armies of Islam are up against.
- gay people, the unborn, cats and dogs, ancient churches, anyone or anything someone out there loves and wants to protect

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