Swedish court acquits former Syrian army general accused of role in war crimes

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) —

A Swedish court on Thursday acquitted a former Syrian army general accused of playing a role in war crimes in his home country more than a decade ago.

Brig. Gen. Mohammed Hamo, who now lives in Sweden, was charged in February with aiding and abetting crimes against international law. Prosecutors said that as head of the Ordnance Department of the Syrian Army’s 11th Division, he was responsible for providing the weapons that were used to commit war crimes in 2012.

The prosecutor alleged that Hamo had participated in the division’s indiscriminate attacks on military and civilian targets in and around the Syrian cities of Homs and Hama.

Swedish news agency TT said that Hamo was the highest-ranking military officer ever to stand trial in a European court for international human rights violations in Syria. Syria has been ravaged by civil war for over 13 years.

Little is known about the 65-year-old Hamo. In June 2012, he was transferred to northern Syria, and the following month he decided to leave the army and fled to Turkey. There, he joined a group that was fighting against the Syrian regime.

He traveled to Sweden in 2015, where he sought asylum. He was granted asylum, but Sweden’s Migration Board informed the government that Hamo was previously “a senior officer within the framework of an army that was systematically considered to have committed violations of human rights.”

Hamo was living in central Sweden when he was arrested on December 7, 2021. A court at the time released him two days later, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to keep him incarcerated. He has since been free.

The unrest in Syria between Assad’s regime and opposition groups began in March 2011, and later exploded into a civil war that has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.

Chief prosecutor Karolina Wieslander was not immediately available for comment. A lawyer for the eight plaintiffs who backed the case against Hamo told Swedish broadcaster SVT that they need to read the verdict before deciding whether to appeal.

The plaintiffs included a man whose brother was killed in attacks on Homs, as well as a British and a French journalist — Edith Bouvier and Paul Conroy — who were injured in an attack on a media center in Baba Amr in February 2012. Veteran war correspondent Marie Colvin was killed in the same attack.

Throughout the trial at the Stockholm District Court which started April 15, Hamo has maintained his innocence. The last court session was May 21.

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