The Story of Abdullah Arslan al-Hariri

From a Human Watch Report

Abdullah Arslan al-Hariri, a 36 or 37 year old laborer from Namr, Daraa, was married, but had no children.[43] According to his brother, Abdullah became a prominent leader of anti-government demonstrations in his hometown of Namr following the beginning of protests in 2011, and later began helping Syrian Army defectors who wished to leave the country.[44]Syrian security forces raided his house several times, but Abdullah was not at home during these raids.

On June 16, 2012, the Military Police arrested Abdullah along with his relative, Tal`at.[46] There had been several military police raids in Namr that morning, Tal`at told Human Rights Watch, and he and Abdullah went to try and hide on the outskirts of the town. Military Police shot Abdullah in his shoulder as they tried to evade arrest and seized the two, handcuffed them, and blindfolded them with tape.

An officer told me to tie [Abdullah’s] shoulder with my shirt, which I did, but that is all. There were some thorns in the wound from his fall, but they did not allow me to clean it

Tal`at and Abdullah were taken to the courtyard of the Military Police department in Izra`, also in Daraa governorate. Tal`at was blindfolded, and could only hear the police officers’ interrogation. He told Human Rights Watch:

When we were in the courtyard [of the Military Police department]…they insulted him, and I could hear that they were beating him. I could hear that he was in pain. Abdallah was interrogated about his participation in the protests. They hit him. They told him, “You are a fighter.” Abdallah responded, “No, I am not armed.” The last thing I heard was: “I have an injured terrorist, come and take him from here.” Then I heard the sound of a car, I am sure it was not an ambulance, because they were still yelling at him…. I never saw him again.

The General Intelligence branch released Tal`at a few days later. Fearing for their own safety, Abdullah’s family did not make official inquiries. They had no more news of him until the Caesar photographs were released. The family identified him from a set of photographs posted on Facebook.

The photographs of Abdullah’s body from the Caesar archive did not identify him as associated with any particular security branch. They appear in a folder dated June 2012, the month Abdullah was detained. The archive includes seven photographs of his body. The gunshot wound on his shoulder is clearly visible in some of the photographs. The file name states that he was “under the responsibility of the Ninth Brigade” (al-Firqah al-Tase`a), which operates in Daraa.

In a Physicians for Human Rights report on the the forensic analysis of the digital images (for which Human Rights Watch provided no background information specific to the individual), PHR’s team of forensic pathologists noted that the photographs depicted an adult man in his 30s with four gunshot wounds, including both entry and exit gunshot wounds to the head, the entry wound “suggestive of a close range entry,” as well as gunshots to the right shoulder and the right arm.

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