Tugce Albayrak funeral: Thousands mourn in Germany

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Media captionThe coffin with Tugce Albayrak was carried away after a funeral ceremony, as Jenny Hill reports

Large crowds in Germany have been paying their final respects to a young woman who was killed defending two girls from harassment.

Tugce Albayrak died on Friday after she was hit on the head and left in a coma outside a McDonald's near Frankfurt.

Hundreds of mourners attended a service at a local mosque before she was due to be buried in her home town.

A man of 18 remains in custody over the 15 November attack, which shocked Germany.

The funeral took place at a mosque in Waechtersbach, attended by Hesse's state Prime Minister Volker Bouffier. The Turkish ambassador was also due to take part in the service.

Mr Bouffier spoke of the "horror" of the attack that had made her death all the sadder.

The funeral procession then set off for a cemetery in the village of Bad Soden-Salmuenster, where Tugce Albayrak was born.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tugce Albayrak was left brain dead by the attack. Her life support was switched off on her 23rd birthday

At the scene - Jenny Hill, BBC News, Waechtersbach

A call to prayer rang out and a few flakes of snow fell as hundreds of mourners huddled together in front of Tugce's coffin. It was a bleak scene. A funeral in the car park of a mosque on an industrial estate. A German and a Turkish flag stood out, colourful, against the grey sky.

Tugce, who was of Turkish descent, has become a national heroine in Germany.

"She will be remembered for her civil courage," a speaker told the crowd, many of whom had pinned a picture of the student over their hearts. Others carried pale roses in tribute to a woman who's been described as a role model for Germany.

At the back of the crowd a few young girls stood holding homemade banners. "We quickly forget those who make us cry. We always remember those who made us smile," read one.

"Tugce was such a bright happy person," one of the girls told me. She tried to smile but her eyes filled with tears.

As the mourners left the mosque, an old Iranian stood watching. I asked him why he'd come. "I didn't know her," he replied. "It's just so sad. she was such a beautiful young girl."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hundreds attended the funeral of Ms Albayrak, who has been hailed a hero

Ms Albayrak intervened when she heard cries for help from the toilet of a fast food restaurant in the town of Offenbach, where two girls were being harassed, German media report.

She was left in a coma after one of the men returned and attacked her in the car park.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The imam prayed outside the mosque in Waechtersbach before the coffin was taken for burial
Image copyright Bild Zeitung
Image caption Ms Albayrak falls to the ground after the blow, which Bild tweeted appealing for witnesses

Bild newspaper published CCTV footage of the incident on Monday.

A man is seen trying to restrain the suspect, named only as Senal M, before he throws the fatal punch which leaves Ms Albayrak lying flat on the ground, motionless among a group of people.

'Exemplary courage'

The student teacher was in a coma for two weeks before doctors said that she would never regain consciousness and was brain dead.

Her parents switched off her life support on her 23rd birthday.

Prosecutors said initial post mortem examination results established she had died from blunt force to the head, but were unable to say whether she had been struck on the head or hit her head as she fell.

Ms Albayrak's actions have been praised by Germany's President Joachim Gauck who called her a role model and said that she had shown "exemplary courage and moral fortitude".

A petition calling for Ms Albayrak, an ethnic Turk, to be awarded the national order for merit posthumously has gathered more than 100,000 signatures.

Confirming he would consider the award, President Gauck wrote to her family to say: "Like countless citizens, I am shocked and appalled by this terrible act. Tugce has earned gratitude and respect from us all."

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