Decisions issued by the Syrian government’s Terrorism Court in absentia remain a source of concern for residents of Daraa governorate’s eastern countryside, despite the court’s inability to carry out its rulings in the area. Eastern Daraa remains outside the full control of Damascus, instead controlled by the Russian-backed Fifth Corps.
The Court in Damascus issued a decree in 2015 to seize the properties of more than 50 people from the town of Maarabeh in the countryside east of Daraa. It also issued Decree No. 228 for Case No. 3426 of 2015, ruling in favour of the imprisonment of four defendants for 15 years and executive seizure of their movable and immovable assets.
According to a correspondent for The Syria Report in Daraa, the trial of Case No. 3426 occured in absentia. Its proceedings were not based on any confession by the four defendants, nor was there any evidence or witnesses incriminating them. No attorney attended the court proceedings to defend the men.
The four defendants had worked prior to the war as nurses in government-run hospitals in Daraa. After 2012, when Daraa was split between regime and rebel control, they were dismissed by the Ministry of Health due to their absence from work. Afterwards, they worked in the Maarabeh Field Hospital and treated people who had been injured in armed clashes and bombings. They also worked in the nearby Busra Field Hospital, which is supported by Doctors Without Borders. None of them engaged in any military action or joined an armed group, according to The Syria Report correspondent.
The decision issued by the Terrorism Court’s criminal judge said the four nurses had financed and incited terrorist acts, and joined terrorist organisations. Alongside imprisonment and confiscation of assets, they were fined SYP 200,000 each, and stripped of their civil rights.
The town of Maarabeh has been immersed in anti-regime activity since 2011, and came under rebel control in 2013. During a regime attack on the town in 2013, 180 people died and 54 were arrested. More than 1,500 homes were burnt, while 700 homes faced damage from airstrikes and artillery fire. Maarabeh became known in recent years for its important role in treating war-wounded, and for its field hospital — the largest in southern Syria. The town faced heavy bombardment, including on its field hospital. One of its facilities, a two-storey building, was destroyed.
Currently, Maarabeh and most of Daraa’s eastern countryside are under the control of the Russian-backed Eighth Brigade of the Fifth Corps, and regime forces are unable to enter, detain residents or implement either preventative or executive property seizures. However, those who have been the target of decrees by the Terrorism Court are effectively unable to leave the areas of Daraa that are under the authority of the Eighth Brigade, for fear of arrest. In effect, owners of properties that have been placed under preventative or executive seizure are unable to dispose of those properties.
The Terrorism Court has issued decisions similar to the one in Maarabeh against medical workers in other areas under the Eighth Brigade’s authority, including Umm Walad, Al-Jizeh, Busra Al-Sham and Al-Taybeh.
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