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.


Malaysia to push Southeast Asian nations for long-term solution to smog

Updated 19 September 2019

Malaysia to push Southeast Asian nations for long-term solution to smog

  • Malaysia and neighboring Singapore have been choked by smoky air blown in from forest fires started to clear land for plantations
  • The situation forced schools to shut and many people to wear masks so as to avoid inhaling smog particles

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will push its Southeast Asian neighbors to strengthen cooperation in finding a long-term solution for smog wafted across the region from forest fires in Indonesia, its environment minister said on Thursday.
In the past few weeks, Malaysia and neighboring Singapore have been choked by smoky air blown in from forest fires started to clear land for plantations, forcing schools to shut and many people to wear masks so as to avoid inhaling smog particles.
“I will have a conference call with the ASEAN secretary-general to raise our views and also express our hope for a more effective mechanism at the ASEAN level for a long-term solution,” Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin told a news conference, but did not elaborate on other participants.
All three countries belong to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which set up a regional haze action plan in 1997, but Malaysia thinks the grouping has not done enough to evolve a long-term solution.
Among its efforts to tackle the hazard, Malaysia could pass a new law to punish any of its companies responsible for starting fires, but only international cooperation could yield a lasting solution, Yeo added.
“Cloud seeding is only temporary. A law here would only deal with Malaysian companies. What we need is international cooperation for a long-term solution.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had said Malaysia was considering a new law to compel its companies to tackle fires on land they control abroad.
Yeo said Malaysia will keep up cloud seeding efforts to bring temporary relief in badly-hit areas. This involves spraying chemicals, such as sodium chloride and magnesium oxide, from aircraft in order to spur rainfall.
Malaysia will also consider deploying drones to help in cloud seeding, Mahathir told a separate news conference.
Malaysia’s Islamic Development Department issued the text of a special plea for divine intervention to disperse the smog, to be recited after weekly prayers on Friday by mosque congregations nationwide.