German authorities: 2 arrested in Cologne sex assaults
Mar. 09, 2016
BERLIN (AP) — Two men have been taken into custody on suspicion of involvement in sex crimes on New Year's Eve in the western German city, after they were identified among photos prosecutors released to the public of suspects, Cologne authorities said Wednesday.
A 26-year-old Algerian was recognized in one of the photos released Tuesday and arrested in Kerpen, near Cologne, prosecutors' spokesman Ulrich Bremer said. A 31-year-old Iraqi turned himself in in Hamm, about 125 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of Cologne, after recognizing himself in another photo, Bremer said.
The younger man is accused of being part of a group involved in the sexual assault and attempted robbery of a woman, and the older is suspected of verbal sexual harassment of a woman who was with her family, he said.
Authorities are still trying to determine both suspects' status in Germany and Bremer said he could not give out any other details about them due to German privacy laws.
The spate of thefts and assaults on women near Cologne's main station, blamed largely on foreigners, stoked a fierce debate in Germany about how to integrate the almost 1.1 million asylum-seekers who arrived last year.
Some 1,120 criminal complaints have been filed, among them 470 alleging sexual crimes, including three rapes. Overall, 110 people are currently under investigation, and 13 of them are in custody, including one other on sexual-related offenses, Bremer said.
In the first cases to go to trial, the Cologne district court in February handed a 23-year-old Moroccan asylum-seeker a six-month suspended sentence and a 100-euro ($110) fine for stealing a cellphone from a woman as she photographed the city's cathedral, and for possessing drugs.
Also, a 22-year-old Tunisian was given a three-month suspended sentence for theft. The court found he distracted a man on a bridge near Cologne's main station while his 18-year-old Moroccan co-defendant, who was convicted under juvenile law and put on probation, stole a bag containing a camera.
Cologne prosecutors on Tuesday released five pictures of varying quality of suspects who allegedly sexually harassed or insulted their victims and attempted to rob them. They were taken by witnesses and victims.
They released four more photos on Wednesday of two suspects wanted on suspicion of illegally discharging a firearm into the air near the Cologne train station.
In one of the grainy photos, a man is seen pointing a pistol into the air. Bremer said it is not clear whether it is a real firearm or a starter pistol.