The fallout from Germany’s 2015 refugee crisis has returned to the dock after a 22-year-old Syrian man was handed a life sentence on Wednesday for raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl last year.
The conviction of Ali Bashar, who arrived in Germany with his family in 2015 with more than one million others, has sparked a fresh round of soul-searching in the country over immigration and public safety.
The court in the southwestern city of Wiesbaden ordered Bashar to serve at least 15 years before being considered for parole for the killing of Susanna Feldmann.
Bashar confessed to killing the girl but denied raping her. She went missing on May 22nd 2018, sparking a huge police search. Weeks later her body was found in brush near a railway line near her home city of Mainz. Around her neck, investigators found her jacket had been tied in a knot 8cm thick.
“Mr Bashar, you killed Susanne to cover up the prior rape,” said Judge Jürgen Bonk.
Diana Feldmann, the victim’s mother, wrote in the Bild tabloid: “I’ve already received my life sentence, though I am not guilty.”
After the killing Bashar fled to Iraq but he was brought back to stand trial after a personal intervention by the head of Germany’s federal police. He is also accused of raping an 11-year-old girl in a case that is ongoing.
The killing and Bashar’s arrest a year ago stoked up debate, tapped by the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), that German authorities have lost control of public order. Debate was particularly heated when it emerged Bashar had been allowed remain in Germany after his asylum application had been rejected.
Some AfD politicians have accused German investigators of deliberately playing down or finessing crime figures with foreign national, refugee or asylum seeker suspects or perpetrators – a claim authorities deny.
In Freiburg, three hours south of Wiesbaden, 11 men – one a German citizen – are on trial accused of raping an 18-year-old woman in bushes near a local disco last October. Eight of the defendants are from Syria.
And last Friday evening in the western city of Mülheim, police were called to investigate a suspected mass rape of an 18-year-old woman by five alleged Bulgarian attackers, all reportedly aged between 11 and 14.
The recent series of attacks have revived memories of new year’s eve 2015-2016 in Cologne, when scores of women were assaulted by groups of men, including foreign nationals and some asylum seekers.