The island of Corfu, Greece, where the Freiburg suspect was previously convicted for throwing a woman off a cliff. Photo: DPA.
Update: The German Interior Minister said it was "very upsetting" that Greece had not launched an international search when the man now suspected of raping and murdering a German student went missing in their country.
Authorities in both Germany and Greece confirmed on Thursday that the young man suspected of raping and killing a 19-year-old woman in Freiburg had previously been convicted in Greece for the attempted murder of a young woman. He was released from prison early and subsequently vanished.
Various German media outlets had reported before the official confirmation about suspect Hussein K.'s prior criminal history.
Police confirmed, using the suspect's fingerprints, that Hussein had been jailed in Greece by a juvenile court for robbing and assaulting a woman in 2013 on the island of Corfu.
In that attack, he stole the bag of a 20-year-old student and then threw her off a cliff, leaving her badly injured. She later identified him as the same person involved in the German case.
A Greek lawyer also told DPA that she recognized the suspect as the man she had defended in the case in 2013.
"I have no doubts," said lawyer Maria-Eleni Nikopoulou.
Hussein was sentenced to ten years in prison, but at the end of October 2015 was able to be placed on parole with the requirement to report to police every month. However, officials lost trace of him two months after he was freed.
The suspect left Greece shortly after being placed on parole, but only a nationwide search was initiated by Greek authorities, not an international one. Neither Interpol nor the Schengen Information System (SIS) were alerted.
"This is very upsetting and we will certainly have to discuss this with the Greek side," said German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière on Thursday about the Greek authorities' response.
Hussein arrived in Germany and applied for asylum later in 2015, and was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of raping and murdering a 19-year-old female medical student in Freiburg in October. His DNA was found at the crime scene and he was identified on CCTV.
De Maizière said that if the Greeks had launched an international search, "the suspect could have been detected at various stages of the systematic checks made by German security authorities".
Greek media also slammed their country's security officials for their mishandling of the prison release programme and for failing to alert Interpol.
De Maizière also said on Thursday that there must be a better system of sharing information across European databases. He explained that there are already some shared databases, including the SIS and a refugee database. But these databases themselves are not yet linked and thus may not give authorities the full picture.
The Federation of German Criminal Police (BDK) called the situation a “blatant failure” on the part of Greek authorities. The fact that the data on the fugitive Afghan was not shared with the SIS meant that he was not identified by German police as a wanted criminal when he first applied for asylum in Freiburg in November 2015.
“If the Greeks had announced that there should be an international search for him, we would have found him,” said BDK head André Schulz to Bild on Thursday.
Social Democrat (SPD) interior affairs expert Burkhard Lischka also expressed criticism to the Rheinische Post about Greek officials' lack of action.
"It raises the question of how a man convicted of a serious, violent crime was already set free after such a short time and then also was able to leave the country," Lischka said.
But Greek authorities have defended their decision to let Hussein out on parole.
“His release was legitimate and completely in line with the law,” Eftyxis Fytrakis from the Greek justice ministry told Bild.
“His behaviour was excellent. He attended school at the 6th and 7th grave levels and fulfilled 581 days of volunteer work.”
DPA and the Süddeutsche Zeitung both also report that the suspect is actually older than first stated. He is registered in Germany as being 17 years old, but Greek authorities recorded his birthday as January 1st 1996, meaning he would be 20 years old.
His age is relevant in determining whether he will be prosecuted as a juvenile.