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The Telegraph

Exclusive: Syrian general accused of war crimes 'given new life in Europe by Mossad'

A senior Syrian official denied asylum in France due to concerns of possible involvement in war crimes was spirited out of the country with help from the Israeli secret service Mossad to Austria, where he was helped to start a new life, a top judicial source has told The Telegraph. Brigadier General Khaled al-Halabi, who was chief of Syrian intelligence in Raqqa from 2009 until 2013, is also the target of a legal complaint for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, a Telegraph investigation can reveal. During his time in charge of the Raqqa facility, prisoners were allegedly murdered, tortured and sexually assaulted, according to the complaint filed in a Western country and which has been sent to the Paris prosecutor. Mr Halabi vehemently denies any wrongdoing. In spite of human rights concerns about his unit, France’s spy agency, Direction Générale de la Ssécurité Extérieure, (DGSE), helped the general secretly leave Syria and travel to France in 2014 at a time when Syria’s war against rebel forces was in the balance, it is alleged. He was, however, then denied asylum in France due to concerns that his senior position in the Syrian regime meant he could have been involved in criminal acts, The Telegraph has learned. That prompted the French War Crimes Unit to launch a preliminary investigation in 2017. In spite of this, he was then mysteriously exfiltrated from France by Israeli intelligence agents to Austria, where he was successfully granted asylum, according to the judicial source and French and Austrian media. The agencies involved allegedly believed Mr Halabi could play an important role in the future of Syria. “It's clear he is a big fish,” said one senior French judicial source. “We wanted to quiz him about all the testimonies we have gathered. It is very frustrating as he was a top target." How Mr Halabi obtained asylum when France turned him down and whether he should have been prosecuted has sparked a national uproar in Austria in recent weeks, with the media revealing an apparent power struggle between the country’s domestic intelligence agency, which allegedly helped the general, and its justice ministry which sought to investigate him. In 2013, when Mr Halabi defected, it was not clear that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would prevail over the rebels who had been fighting to overthrow him since 2011. Russia, which would provide decisive help to the embattled president, would not enter the war for another two years. That October, as Raqqa became the first provincial capital to fall to the rebels, Mr Halabi slipped out of the city among a stream of refugees headed to Turkey. By early 2014 he had made it to France with the help of French agents who may have believed the senior official could be a useful asset in the event of President Assad’s downfall, the senior French judicial source told The Telegraph. “This was also just a few months before the 2015 terror attacks in Paris and the DGSE was desperate to get their hands on any leads about the Islamic State, which they knew was actively planning strikes,” said the source, who asked their name be withheld. “If they brought him here it was no doubt because they considered him a usable source,” said one senior French military intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity. However, Mr Halabi’s request for asylum in France was declined in 2015, with the French Office for Refugees, OFPRA, citing a specific provision of the Geneva Convention, 1F. This denies an individual refugee status when there are serious reasons to consider he may have committed a “crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, or a serious non-political crime outside the country of refuge”. He could not be deported however as Syria was a country at war. At this point, the Israeli and Austrian intelligence services are alleged to have intervened on Mr Halabi’s behalf.

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