Cologne attacks: First trial for sexual assault on New Year's Eve begins

A 26-year-old Algerian who faces charges of assaults on woman during New Year"s Eve celebrations in Cologne, covers his head at a regional court in Cologne, western Germany, May 6, 2016 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Algerian man covered his head as he appeared in court in Cologne

The first trial for sexual offences has got under way in Cologne over attacks on women in the German city during New Year celebrations.

A 26-year-old Algerian is charged with attempted sexual assault and theft.

He is accused of being part of a group of 10 men who surrounded and groped a woman in the main railway station in the early hours of New Year's Day.

The large-scale sexual assaults and robberies by men of North African and Arab appearance shocked Germany.

More than 1,000 criminal complaints were filed, hundreds of them alleging sexual assault, after women reported being surrounded by groups of men in and around Cologne's main station.

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Image copyright EPA
Image caption Large crowds gathered outside Cologne's cathedral and station on New Year's Eve

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The 26-year-old whose trial began on Friday denies the charges against him.

According to prosecutors, after the group of men surrounded the woman victim, some of them proceeded to touch her on the buttocks and other areas "in a sexually motivated way", for two to three minutes.

The defendant allegedly used this opportunity to steal her mobile phone.

On trial with him is a 23-year-old Algerian - his brother, according to German news agency DPA - who is accused of stealing another woman's mobile phone as she was surrounded.

Nine men have already been convicted of theft and similar charges in relation to the events, prosecutors say.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A 23-year-old Algerian was also in court in Cologne on Friday

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