LONDON: In the first case of its kind in the country, a refugee residing in the Netherlands has gone on trial for war crimes over alleged murders that he oversaw during the Syrian war.
Ahmad Al K, 49, arrived in the Netherlands with his family in 2014. He was arrested in 2019 after being spotted in a crude video showing the murder of an unarmed Syrian soldier.
Following the arrest, he admitted to being present at the time of the video, but his lawyer argued that he was seeking a prisoner exchange from the captive in an effort to free siblings who had been jailed by the Syrian regime.
However, it has been alleged that Al K oversaw the killing using the name Abu Khuder, and operated as a local leader of the Al-Nusra militant group.
The 2012 video shows a captured lieutenant colonel in the Syrian air force being led to a river before being shot dead.
A second video has emerged from German investigators, in which prosecutors allege that Ahmad Al K is clearly identifiable.
The case is the result of a Dutch undercover operation that involved a key witness in Syria who spoke to investigators through WhatsApp.
Al K claimed in court on Tuesday that he fled to Turkey in 2013 and arrived in the Netherlands via Greece the following year. He was provided temporary asylum by Dutch authorities.
The investigation was initiated after German police shared data from witness statements that linked him to Al-Nusra.
In court, Al K argued that he had been living in the eastern town of Mohassen when it was attacked by Syrian regime forces.
Investigators believe that he fled and established one of the first rebel battalions in the war, before eventually joining Al-Nusra.
A 2012 interview with The Guardian could prove crucial in the case. In the feature, a man named Abu Khuder told Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad that he had deserted the Syrian military and pledged allegiance to Al-Nusra.
Though the case is the first of its kind in the Netherlands, other European countries have successfully prosecuted individuals who took part in crimes during the Syrian war.
Earlier this year, a German court handed a former Syrian intelligence officer jail time for his involvement in crimes against humanity.
Another former Syrian officer, 58-year-old Anwar Raslan, is facing trial over his alleged involvement in the torture of at least 4,000 people from 2011 to 2012. He faces charges of murder, rape and sexual assault.