Iraqi faces verdict in Germany’s ‘Susanna’ rape-murder trial

Defendant Iraqi Ali B faces his verdict in Germany on July 10 over the rape and murder of a teenage girl. (AFP)
Updated 10 July 2019
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Iraqi faces verdict in Germany’s ‘Susanna’ rape-murder trial

  • Prosecutors charge that Bashar battered, raped and strangled the schoolgirl to death
  • Bashar later confessed the killing but denied the rape

WIESBADEN, Germany: An Iraqi man faces his verdict in Germany Wednesday over the rape and murder of a teenage girl that fueled far-right protests against a mass influx of mostly Muslim migrants.
The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and other extremists have seized on the brutal killing of 14-year-old Susanna Maria Feldman in their campaign against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s asylum policy.
The accused, rejected asylum seeker Ali Bashar, 22, faces his verdict in a hearing starting at 9:30 am (0730 GMT) in a heavily guarded court in Wiesbaden, the city where the murder took place in May last year.
If found guilty, Bashar faces a likely sentence of life in prison, and could be kept behind bars beyond the usual maximum 15 years if judge Juergen Bonk finds the crime to be of exceptional severity.
Prosecutors charge that Bashar battered, raped and strangled the schoolgirl to death in a wooded area near railway tracks on May 23.
He then allegedly sent false messages from Susanna’s smartphone indicating she had left for an impromptu trip to Paris.
Her body was only found on June 6 in a shallow grave covered with leaves, twigs and soil.
By this time, Bashar and his family had left Germany and returned to Irbil in northern Iraq.
The accused was however arrested by Kurdish security forces and, even though Berlin and Baghdad have no formal extradition treaty, taken back to Germany.
Federal police chief Dieter Romann personally joined the controversial operation, as newspaper front pages showed pictures of commandos escorting a heavily restrained Bashar off an aircraft.
Bashar later confessed the killing but denied the rape, claiming that he and the girl had consensual sex before she fell, got angry and threatened to call the police.
In a separate trial, Bashar is accused of twice raping an 11-year-old girl, who was believed to have also been sexually assaulted by an Afghan youth.
The Bashar case put renewed pressure on Merkel’s government over the decision to keep open German borders at the height of Europe’s refugee crisis.
The far-right has voiced fury about cases of sexual violence committed by those migrants and other foreigners — including mass assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015-16, and, in April this year, the alleged gang rape by eight Bulgarian teens of a 13-year-old girl.
Bashar, his parents and siblings arrived in Germany in 2015, at the peak of the influx that would bring more than a million asylum seekers, mostly from the Middle East and Africa.
His asylum request was rejected in late 2016, but he obtained a temporary residence permit pending his appeal.
During this time, he came to police attention for fights, alleged robbery and possession of an illegal switchblade.
Susanna’s mother, dressed in black during the almost four-month-long trial, broke down in tears as the court heard the harrowing details of the crime.
Bashar by contrast appeared composed during the trial, in which a psychiatrist testified the accused has a personality disorder and is incapable of empathy.


Villagers angry as Portugal wildfire still rages

A villager tries to extinguish a wildfire at the village of Chaveira, near Macao, in central Portugal on Monday, July 22, 2019. (AP)
Updated 24 min 30 sec ago
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Villagers angry as Portugal wildfire still rages

  • By evening, the fire was only 70% under control because of the strong winds and high temperatures, Civil Protection commander Pedro Nunes said, adding there were currently no homes or villages at risk

VILA DE REI/MACAO, Portugal: After more than 50 hours, firefighters were still battling a wildfire in central Portugal late on Monday, as villagers and local authorities blamed a lack of resources and government inaction for the damage caused by the flames.
So far, 39 people had been injured, including one who was in serious condition. Portugal’s Civil Protection department said some villagers had been evacuated as a precaution and houses had been destroyed.
The fire was small in comparison with a massive blaze that hit the same region in June 2017, killing 64 people and burning about 55,000 hectares (136,000 acres) in a few days. That was the worst disaster in modern Portuguese history.
Data from the European Union fire-mapping service showed about 8,500 hectares (21,000 acres) burned over the weekend.
Civil Protection said earlier on Monday that the fire, which broke out on Saturday afternoon, was 90% under control, but warned that the remaining blazes required “a lot of attention” as the winds whipped up later in the day, fanning the flames in tinder-dry conditions.
By evening, the fire was only 70% under control because of the strong winds and high temperatures, Civil Protection commander Pedro Nunes said, adding there were currently no homes or villages at risk.
“The worst-case scenario happened,” said Nunes. He said firefighters would adopt techniques overnight to put out the flames, including using four bulldozers provided by the armed forces.
Even though humidity is expected to remain low, the wind is set to lose strength in the early hours of Tuesday, which could help firefighters end the wildfire, Nunes added.
Covered in eucalyptus and pine trees, central Portugal is frequently hit by summer blazes, with hilly terrain making it especially difficult for firefighters to reach.

’THERE WAS NO ONE’
Villagers, as well as authorities in Macao and Vila de Rei, areas in the heart of the fire zone, said there were not enough firefighters and resources to combat the flames.
Sheep farmer Joaquim Ribeiro told Reuters there were no firefighters when the blaze arrived at his village in Macao, forcing him to transfer his animals elsewhere. “It was pandemonium.”
Another sheep farmer, Fernando Cardoso, said he rushed to a nearby fire station as the flames approached his village but the firefighters told him they could not help until given the green light.
“The fire appeared out of nowhere,” he said. “When we got here, there were flames everywhere, no place to turn, no firefighters, there was no one.”
Local authorities have also pointed the finger at Portugal’s Socialist government, led by Prime Minister Antonio Costa.
Speaking to Lusa news agency, the deputy mayor of Vila de Rei, Paulo Cesar, accused the government of not being able to prevent wildfires.
“The municipality is fed up with these successive fires linked to criminal activity and is fed up of seeing the state fail again,” he said.
Asked by reporters about the complaints, Costa said the mayors were “primarily responsible” for protecting their own municipalities from wildfires through “proper management of their territory.”
Internal Administration Minister Eduardo Cabrita said police had opened an investigation into the fires. Portugal’s judiciary police have collected evidence and artifacts that could be related to the fires’ origin, an official told Lusa news agency.
In a statement, police said a 55-year-old man was detained on suspicion of starting a blaze in the Portuguese district of Castelo Branco. But a police source, quoted by Portuguese newspaper Observador, said the detention was not related to the fires in question.
The police did not reply to a Reuters request for comment.
Civil Protection said 1,079 firefighters were on the ground, backed up by 347 firefighting vehicles.
Spain said late on Monday that it was sending two aircraft to help tackle the fires in Portugal.