Spain backs allies over Syria strategy

Spain's foreign affairs minister has ruled out direct intervention in Syria for the time being but says the country would consider allowing the United States to use its military bases if asked to do so.

Spain backs allies over Syria strategy
Spain's Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo wants to see a stop to the use of chemical weapons in Syria but preferably without the use of military force. File photo: Miguel Rojo/AFP

Spain's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation José Manuel García-Margallo on Tuesday defended Spain's decision to back the United States and other European nations in demanding a "response" to a recent Syrian government chemical weapons attack.

Speaking at an event organized by Spanish debate forum Nueva Economía Fórum, he said: "The doctrine outlined in (the G20 summit in) Saint Petersburg, and which the Spanish Government applauded, involved making sure chemical weapons were not used again under any circumstances."

"All actions designed to eliminate the possibility of using chemical weapons — if possible avoiding military intervention — are welcomed by the Spanish Government," Margallo said at the forum.

The Spanish foreign minister also referred to the possible use of Spanish bases by the United States. 

"There has been no petition regarding the use of (Spanish) bases," he said, saying the issue would be discussed if the US made such a request.

On Tuesday, France said it would draw up a United Nations Security Council resolution based on a Russian proposal to avoid a US strike against Syria by having the Middle Eastern country hand over control of its chemical weapons arsenal.  

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Spain probes Syrian intelligence chief over alleged torture

A Spanish judge on Monday ordered an investigation into the alleged torture and execution of a Syrian man after a case was filed by his sister, a Spaniard of Syrian origin.

Spain probes Syrian intelligence chief over alleged torture
Lebanese students opposed to the Syrian regime hold up portraits of Syria's feared security chief Ali Mamluk (r) at a 2012 protest in Beirut. Photo: AFP

Amal Hag-Hamdo Anfalis brought the case on January 31, saying her brother Abdul Hamdo, a 42-year-old lorry driver, was illegally detained in 2013, two years after the start of the Syrian conflict, before being tortured and executed.

High court judge Eloy Velasco ruled Spain does have jurisdiction to launch the procedure against Syrian officials, nine in all, including Damascus' head of intelligence Ali Mamluk and high ranking colleagues including Abdel Fattah Qudsiyeh, Mohammad Dib Zeitun and Jamil Hassan.

Others named in the case are former Syrian vice president Faruk al-Shareh, Mohamed Said Bekheitan, a senior official with the ruling Baath party, as well as Mohamed al Haj Ali, general Jalal al Hayek and colonel Souleyman al Youssef.

Amal says a Syrian military police photographer and deserter, known as “Cesar”, smuggled out evidence of his brother's death as well as that of thousands of other regime opponents.

The charge sheet against the accused alleges Abdul Hamdo was the victim of “state terrorism.” One image of his lifeless body “shows clear signs of torture.”

The photo archive shows he died in the Syrian military intelligence's detention centre 248 in Damascus.

Judge Velasco, who has asked Amal and “Cesar” to testify from April 10th, says the alleged crimes could constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and forced disappearance.

Under Spanish law Madrid will normally only hear such a case if it involves a Spanish victim or if there is a direct material link with Spain.

Velasco found there were compelling arguments for it to be heard, given that Amal is a Spanish national who could be considered a victim.

French judicial authorities are also investigating the “Cesar” photo trove to determine if crimes against humanity were committed, while lawyers in Germany also filed a criminal complaint against the Assad regime before federal prosecutors earlier this month.