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CRIME

Iraqi man goes on trial in Germany’s ‘Susanna’ rape-murder case

An Iraqi man, who had sought asylum in Germany, went on trial Tuesday accused of the rape and murder of a teenage girl that inflamed anti-immigrant tensions amid a mass influx of asylum seekers.

Iraqi man goes on trial in Germany's 'Susanna' rape-murder case
Tributes laid at the memorial of Susanna in Wiesbaden, Hesse. Phooto: DPA

The accused, who is known as Ali B. under German law, left Germany for northern Iraq shortly after the May 2018 crime but was brought back in a mission joined personally by federal police chief Dieter Romann.

SEE ALSO: Iraqi charged with rape, murder in Germany's 'Susanna' case

The 22-year-old's trial for the rape-murder of 14-year-old schoolgirl Susanna F. started under tight security at 9.30am in the city of Wiesbaden, Hesse, where the crime took place.

Around a dozen people held a vigil for the victim outside the courthouse.

The suspect has admitted the killing to police interrogators but denied the rape, meaning he already faces a likely life prison term, which in Germany usually translates to 15 years behind bars.

To Germany's far right, the alleged killer, who is also accused of raping an 11-year-old girl in a separate case, has become a symbol of the threat allegedly posed by the wave of newcomers.

Before the trial, the anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) party again blamed Chancellor Angela Merkel and her grand coalition or “GroKo” government for Susanna's death.

“The problem isn't 'the right' but the knife-man immigration caused by the GroKo that has caused ever more bloody crimes,” the party wrote in a Facebook post.

The AfD became the biggest opposition party when it entered parliament in late 2017, riding a wave of public anger over sexual assaults and other violent crimes committed by some recent migrants.

In another case last year, the fatal stabbing of a German man in the eastern city of Chemnitz, allegedly by immigrants, sparked outbursts of mob violence in which far-right extremists hunted people of foreign appearance through the streets.

SEE ALSO: Refugees still welcome? How one girl's murder is dividing Germany

Shallow grave

B., along with his parents and five siblings, first arrived in Germany in 2015, the year that saw the peak of the migrant influx which would bring more than one million people to Europe's top economy.

His request for asylum was rejected in December 2016, but — in a case critics label as symptomatic of an overwhelmed and dysfunctional system — he obtained a temporary residence permit pending his appeal.

Merkel later conceded in a TV interview that “the case shows how important it is that people who don't have residency rights quickly face a court and can be speedily sent back home”.

In May last year, B. allegedly beat, raped and strangled Susanna to death in a wooded area near his refugee shelter in Wiesbaden.

Her body was then buried in a shallow grave covered with leaves, twigs and soil.

When her remains were found two weeks later, B. and his family had left Germany for Arbil, northern Iraq.

However following a public outcry, he was arrested by Kurdish security forces and German federal police hauled the suspect back from Iraq.

Despite the absence of a formal extradition treaty between Iraq and Germany, B. was put on a flight to Germany, with pictures of him disembarking under heavy police guard making front pages.

B. also faces charges for a park robbery in which he allegedly beat, strangled and threatened a man with a knife to steal his watch, bag, phone and bank card.

He faces a separate trial from March 19, accused of having twice raped an 11-year-old girl — once in April 2018 after locking her in his room, and again near a supermarket car park the following month.

More suspects

Prosecutors have also laid charges against an Afghan youth who was living in the same refugee shelter, Mansoor Q., who was believed to be aged at least 14 at the time, for also raping the 11-year-old girl.

And prosecutors have said B.'s younger brother — who is believed to be in Iraq, according to media reports — also took part in a violent sexual assault against the younger girl.

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CRIME

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.

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