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CRIME

Merkel urges Germans to stick to facts on refugee crime

Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted on Wednesday that Germany's record refugee influx last year had not led to a surge in violent crime, amid a rash of headline-grabbing cases.

Merkel urges Germans to stick to facts on refugee crime
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA.

Asked about the rape-murder of a German student allegedly committed by a teenage Afghan asylum seeker and the recent arrest of a 31-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker over the sexual assaults of two Chinese students, Merkel urged Germans to stick to the known facts.

“These are terrible isolated incidents,” Merkel told rolling news channel N-tv on the sidelines of her CDU party's annual conference in the western city of Essen.

She called for “tough sentencing” in such cases but said she had faith in “the response of Germany's rule of law”, adding that general suspicion of refugees was not called for.

“We have looked closely at the crime rate among refugees and the picture is varied. That is also the right answer: that you have to differentiate,” she said.

“The fact that some people want to exploit that is something we have to withstand and defend ourselves against.”

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a close Merkel ally, presented an official report on Tuesday about crimes committed by refugees and said it showed it was unfair to tar all newcomers with the same brush.

He said that property crimes were elevated among asylum seekers from Georgia, for example, compared to the general population, but that the findings showed no such trend among Syrians, who represent a much larger share of the latest influx.

Merkel, who is running for a fourth term in a general election next year, is confronting deep ambivalence among Germans about the arrival since early 2015 of more than one million asylum seekers.

While many have welcomed Merkel's decision to take in people fleeing war and misery, she has also seen a backlash among those doubtful about the ability of Europe's top economic power to integrate the newcomers.

A resurgent right-wing populist party, the AfD, has managed to capitalize on such fears, making strong gains in a string of state elections this year.

This week it directly linked Merkel's liberal border policy to the sex crimes against the three students.

GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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