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Algerian man found not guilty of Cologne New Year's Eve sex assault

The 26-year-old was accused of forming part of a mob who encircled and groped a woman.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated Saturday 5 May at 11.40 

A GERMAN COURT yesterday threw out sexual assault charges against an Algerian man stemming from New Year’s Eve violence in Cologne after the victim said she could not identify the defendant.

The panel said it had no evidence that the 26-year-old was part of a group of about 10 men who allegedly surrounded, groped and robbed a woman at Cologne central railway station.

The man was later found to be in possession of the woman’s mobile phone, but he told the court that he had bought the cellphone from an acquaintance.

The court did find the man guilty of handling stolen goods and of a separate charge of breaking into a car last December and sentenced him to a suspended six-month jail term.

Cologne attacks

Also on trial in Cologne was the man’s 23-year-old brother, accused of stealing a cellphone from another woman under similar circumstances.

The brothers are also accused of trying to break into a car last December.

The Cologne attacks – committed in a dense crowd of mostly Arabic and North African men – appalled Germany and sharpened public concern about the arrival of over one million mostly Middle Eastern asylum seekers, with far-right groups railing against “sex jihadists” and “rapefugees”.

The ugly scenes also cast a harsh spotlight on the city’s police who initially failed to prevent the violence then tried to play down the extent of the chaos for several days.

As the attacks gained wider media coverage, more women came forward. Prosecutors have now received some 1,170 criminal complaints, including 492 accusations of sexual assault.

Nine men have so far been sentenced in Cologne, all for property crimes.

A key suspect in the Cologne sexual violence, a 19-year-old Moroccan man, is set to face trial after he was spotted shoplifting in southern Germany and arrested across the border in Switzerland last week.

Another Moroccan man is on trial in the western city of Duesseldorf over a New Year’s attack there in which he allegedly groped an 18-year-old woman encircled by some 15 to 20 men.

Comments have been closed as separate legal proceedings are still under way. 

© AFP 2016.

Read: US citizen gets 10 years of hard labour in North Korea for ‘spying’>

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