Afghan asylum seeker jailed for life in Germany for rape, murder

A file photo of German police. (AFP)
Updated 22 March 2018
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Afghan asylum seeker jailed for life in Germany for rape, murder

FREIBURG: An asylum seeker claiming to be from Afghanistan was sentenced to life in jail in Germany on Thursday for the rape and murder of a student that stoked public fears and a backlash against a mass influx of migrants.
Hussein Khavari, of uncertain age and origin, was found guilty of the deadly night-time attack on medical student Maria Ladenburger, 19, in October 2016 in the university town of Freiburg near the French border.
Khavari pushed her off her bicycle as she was riding home alone from a party, then bit, choked and raped her and left her on the bank of a river where she drowned.
He was arrested seven weeks after the murder after a huge manhunt. Police had found a black hair partially dyed blond at the scene, then spotted Khavari by his hairstyle on security camera footage and linked him to the crime using his DNA.
As the crime sparked public anger and revulsion, social media users posted sarcastic “thank you” messages to Chancellor Angela Merkel over her liberal policy that brought more than one million refugees and migrants to the country.
During the trial, prosecutor Eckart Berger had reminded the two jurors sitting alongside three judges that “on trial is a criminal offender and not Germany’s refugee policy.”

Arrival in Germany

Khavari arrived in Germany, without identity papers, in November 2015, near the peak of the refugee influx, as an unaccompanied minor claiming to be 16 or 17 years old and hailing from Afghanistan.
A police officer told the court that Khavari’s cellphone and social media accounts suggested he had lived in Iran.
Khavari was sent to live with a German host family in the picturesque town on the edge of the Black Forest, went to a local school, learnt German and received state benefits.
It emerged only after his arrest that he had already committed a violent crime in May 2013 in Greece, where he pushed a woman off a cliff on the island of Corfu, leaving her badly injured.
He was sentenced there in February 2014 to 10 years jail for attempted murder but was granted a conditional release from Greece’s overcrowded jails in October 2015.
He fled via Austria to Germany, where authorities knew nothing of his criminal past because Greece had only issued a nationwide warrant, and because no match was detected in an EU-wide fingerprint data base for asylum seekers.
Khavari was initially tried as a juvenile offender, but prosecutors tabled expert opinions that estimated him to be older than 21.
One assessment based on X-rays of his bone structure found him to be 22 or 23 years old, while a dental analysis estimated him to be aged between 22 and 29.
The court accepted the assessments and sentenced Khavari as an adult.
The defendant had on the second day of court hearings in September admitted to the crime, claiming he had heavily abused alcohol and drugs at the time.
He also claimed that his father died long ago in a battle against Afghanistan’s Taliban.
The presiding judge, Kathrin Schenk, in December dialled a number on Khavari’s cellphone and reached his father, who told her through an interpreter that he was living in Iran.


Minister’s comment adds fuel to rape controversy in India

Updated 23 April 2018
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Minister’s comment adds fuel to rape controversy in India

  • Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, which will face national elections within a year, has been under fire in recent weeks
  • There has been a national outcry in recent weeks stemming from two unrelated rape cases

NEW DELHI: Even as India introduced the death penalty for those who rape children, a federal minister said that while such incidents were unfortunate, one “should not make a big deal out of (them).” His comment raised doubts about the government’s commitment to stop such crimes.
According to reports in local media, Santosh Gangwar, junior minister of finance, said: “In such a huge country, if one or two such cases are reported, one should not make a big deal out of it…. Such incidents are really unfortunate, but sometimes it is difficult to control these cases.”
There has been a national outcry in recent weeks stemming from two unrelated rape cases — the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in the northern state of Kashmir as well as the rape of a teenager in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
In the first case, according to media reports, an eight-year-old Kashmiri Muslim girl was kidnapped, sedated and raped by Hindu men in a temple where she was held captive for several days before being bashed to death. Indian law prohibits the media from naming the victims; however, the accused include four policemen and a retired government official.
In the second case, again according to media reports, a BJP lawmaker was accused of raping a teenager who tried to kill herself in front of the state chief minister’s home because the police refused to register her complaint. Her father reportedly clashed with the lawmaker’s supporters and later died of injuries resulting from the clash.
The right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, which will face national elections within a year, has been under fire for the past several weeks for not doing enough to prevent sexual violence against women and children.
Residents in several cities have held marches to protest the rapes, and groups of bureaucrats and academicians have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to express their concern at the “decline in secular, democratic, and liberal values.”
Comments such as those made by Gangwar are among the latest to stoke anger among those demanding justice for the victims.
On Monday, residents of Unnao, the constituency of Kuldeep Singh Sengar, the BJP lawmaker accused of raping the teenager, staged a rally in favor of the accused, dismissing the charges as a political conspiracy, local media reported.
The Unnao rally had echoes of an earlier one in Kashmir when members of a Hindu group led a demonstration to protest the charges against the accused Hindu men.
Two BJP lawmakers also participated in that rally and several Hindu lawyers tried to prevent the police from filing charges in court.
Over the weekend, the government finally acted, pushing through an amendment to the country’s penal code to allow the death penalty for those who rape children under the age of 12. The decision was termed by activists as a “knee-jerk reaction” and one that could threaten the judicial process.
Komal Ganotra, functional director of policy and advocacy at the nonprofit organization Child Rights and You in India, said that since in the majority of cases, the victims know the perpetrators, the chance of a death penalty would deter the family from filing charges.
“The death penalty is not the only way to serve justice. It may seem that the state has taken a big step here, but do not expect it to deter rapes,” she added.
Audrey D’Mello, program director at Majlis, a nonprofit group that has worked with more than a thousand rape survivors since 2011, said what was needed were resources to help survivors find jobs and then settle into regular life.
“The focus is always on conviction, but nobody is thinking about the victim who has been raped and faces a great deal of marginalization,” she said.
“The (Kathua) case was not just about gender violence but about religion and communal violence and that needs to be dealt with severely,” she said. “But 99 percent of the cases are not like that and the death penalty is not the answer.”