How a Syrian execution video led to Kapelle in Zeeland

For the first time, someone in the Netherlands is on trial for an execution in Syria. A video of that was posted on the internet. As of today, the case will be dealt with by the Hague court.

The suspect is a 49-year-old Syrian asylum seeker, who allegedly committed war crimes in his native country. His arrest was a shock to the Zeeland village of Kapelle, where the Syrian lived with his wife and seven children for several years. He was known there as a friendly man, who played at the local football club and also went to church in the village.

But his past is pretty grim according to the Public Prosecutor‘s Office. Before his flight to the Netherlands, he would have been a commander to the Syrian terror movement Jabhat al-Nusra, a local department of al-Qaida. He is suspected of war and terrorist crimes, including execution.

That execution was in the summer of 2012 and was posted in a video on YouTube. The victim is a captured lieutenant colonel of the Syrian Air Force. Despite his surrender, the high military man was taken to the bank of the Euphrates and shot dead there.

In the video below you can see a clip of the video. We don’t show images of execution:

โ€œThis is the fate of every traitor, every murderer, every criminal who kills innocent civilians,โ€ is heard in the video on YouTube after the execution. โ€œHe bombed civilian houses.โ€

Detecting war criminals

The Dutch Public Prosecutor‘s Office has been trying to make more work on detecting war crimes in Syria for several years. Agreements have been made with other European countries. It should lead to higher penalties.

But finding concrete evidence is often difficult, as research in Syria is impossible. That is why suspicion is often stuck with membership of a terrorist organization.

Recently, a Dutch judge has already sentenced two men to years of prison sentences for kicking and posing alongside a body. That too were proven war crimes.

Active as Abu Khuder

So now, for the first time, an execution case serves. Suspect Ahmad al K. would have played a leading role in the group that committed the murder in eastern Syria.

Shortly after the execution, he gave an interview to the British newspaper The Guardian. In it, he himself wounded by a sniper’s bullet, told how he initially fought for the Free Syrian Army. Because he felt that these rebels were too little against President Assad‘s regime, he switched to Jabhat al-Nusra. He found the structure and discipline that was missing from the Free Syrian Army among religious fighters.

Under the name Abu Khuder, he became commander of one of their battalions. Their expertise: self-crafted explosives and car bombs. In 2014, he fled to the Netherlands, allegedly to receive treatment for his incurably ill daughter. That’s how he ended up in Kapelle with his family.

The Dutch police found Abu Khuder after a tip from Germany. There was an investigation of other members of his battalion. The German police had witness statements against the defendant, which the Netherlands continued with.

Undercover agent deployed

One of the details of the investigation is the deployment of an undercover agent. Ahmad already admitted K. to that cop that he can be heard in the execution video. Voice research revealed that it was indeed the suspect.

Meanwhile, the Public Prosecutor‘s Office has a second video on which he can see himself. The videos will be shown in court later in the trial.

Another peculiarity in the case is that the court first interviewed someone via WhatsApp. It’s about a witness in Syria who would otherwise not have been able to speak.

‘Swap for Brother’

According to justice, the International Crimes Team‘s investigation has led to a large amount of evidence against the refugee from Kapelle. The pros suspects Al K. was negotiating ransom with his victim. In the video, the military offers โ€œ15 millionโ€ (now converted around 10,000 euros), apparently for his release. โ€œThat’s not a drop of blood from the children murdered in Deir Ez-zor or Homs or Al Houla,โ€ replied Al K., referring to places where large numbers of civilians were killed.

Al K. has a different story itself. He says he was trying to prevent execution. Abu Khuder argues that he negotiated his brother, who was imprisoned by the Assad regime and would be tortured in prison. His intention would have been to trade the lieutenant colonel for his brother. That didn‘t work out and that’s why he was forced to participate in the death squadron.

The Guardian interview was, according to him.big talk to ensure that he would not be harassed by the jihadists in his region.

The lawsuit will be handled by the court in The Hague, which has jurisdiction to deal with international crimes from today. The session is in an extra secure room in Rotterdam. A penalty is expected in early July.