Europe

Duesseldorf sex assault suspect on trial in Germany

Toufik M (C) enters court for the start of trial in Duesseldorf (11 April) Image copyright EPA
Image caption The suspect, identified only as Toufik M, is accused of sexual coercion and assault

A Moroccan man has gone on trial in the German city of Duesseldorf accused of sexual assault - the first such trial for New Year's Eve sex crimes which shocked the nation.

Most of the attacks took place in Cologne, where more than 550 complaints of sexual assault were made.

Police say many of attackers may never be caught. Several North African men have been convicted of theft.

A woman identified the Duesseldorf suspect when he was interviewed on TV.

The 33-year-old man, identified only as Toufik M, was allegedly in a group of men who surrounded the woman and sexually molested her.

Accused of sexual coercion and assault, he entered the courtroom hiding his face with a coat.

Giving evidence, the 18-year-old woman who filed the complaint said she was with friends in Duesseldorf when she was surrounded by 15 to 20 men, who groped her breasts, bottom and genitals. "They grabbed me everywhere and held me," she said.

It was weeks later, she told the court, that she recognised one of the men when he was described in a TV report as "king of the pickpockets".

The suspect's pregnant girlfriend later said that Toufik M had been with her in a Duesseldorf nightclub that night until 05:00.

But when asked to give the names of two friends who she said had been with them, the 16-year-old told the court they did not wish to be identified.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Duesseldorf police swooped on the city's so-called Maghreb district after the New Year's Eve assaults

Duesseldorf lies some 50km (30 miles) north of Cologne, in the western region of North Rhine-Westphalia.

While much of the sexual violence took place in Cologne, police in Duesseldorf have registered 118 sexual offences.

In Cologne, police have identified more than 70 suspects in connection with the thefts and assaults that took place around the city's station.

The attacks were largely blamed on people from North Africa who entered Germany illegally or have sought asylum.

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