First sus­pect held in Cologne sex as­saults

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A 26-year-old Al­ge­rian man has be­come the first per­son ar­rested in con­nec­tion with a string of sex­ual as­sault dur­ing New Year’s cel­e­bra­tions in Cologne that sparked a de­bate about Ger­many’s abil­ity to in­te­grate mi­grants.

Pros­e­cu­tors said Mon­day that the uniden­ti­fied asy­lum­seeker was ar­rested at a refugee home in the nearby town of Ker­pen over the week­end. He is ac­cused of grop­ing a woman and rob­bing her cell­phone, pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice spokesman Ulrich Bre­mer told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Two other Al­ge­rian asy­lum­seek­ers, aged 22 and 24, were also ar­rested in Ker­pen and the western city of Aachen, re­spec­tively, over the week­end, both for rob­bery, Bre­mer said. The num­ber of peo­ple ac­cused of com­mit­ting crimes in Cologne at New Year’s now stands at 21, of whom eight are in de­ten­tion, he said.

Al­most three weeks af­ter the in­ci­dent, 838 peo­ple have filed crim­i­nal com­plaints, in­clud­ing 497 women al­leg­ing sex­ual as­sault. Some of the vic­tims have jointly filed a sin­gle com­plaint, so that the num­ber of al­leged crimes stands at 766, of which 381 are sex­ual of­fences, in­clud­ing three rapes.

The scale and na­ture of the crimes in Cologne, cou­pled with po­lice de­scrip­tions of the per­pe­tra­tors as be­ing part of a large crowd of drunken men of “Arab or North African” ori­gin, has fanned the de­bate about Ger­many’s ap­proach to mi­gra­tion. Al­most 1.1 mil­lion asy­lum­seek­ers ar­rived in the coun­try last year, many of them from coun­tries where women face greater dis­crim­i­na­tion than in Ger­many.

While the in­ci­dents were seized on by those in Ger­many who had al­ready ar­gued for stricter im­mi­gra­tion rules, left-wing par­ties have also voiced con­cern.

The op­po­si­tion Green Party said Mon­day that se­nior mem­bers passed a res­o­lu­tion call­ing for bet­ter in­te­gra­tion mea­sures to counter the mes­sage about “the su­pe­ri­or­ity of men and the in­equal­ity of women” that many of the al­leged per­pe­tra­tors would have grown up with.

It warned, how­ever, that some of those now voic­ing out­rage about the at­tacks in Cologne were do­ing so to in­cite racism rather than out of con­cern for women.

Ber­lin po­lice is­sued a state­ment Mon­day deny­ing re­ports — widely shared on so­cial me­dia — that a 13-year-old girl had been kid­napped and raped by an al­leged mi­grant in the Ger­man cap­i­tal last week.

AP PHOTO

Po­lice pa­trol in front of the main train sta­tion in Cologne, Ger­many, Mon­day. Au­thor­i­ties in Ger­many have ar­rested a 26-year-old Al­ge­rian man on sus­pi­cion of com­mit­ting a sex­ual as­sault in Cologne dur­ing New Year’s cel­e­bra­tions.

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