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German prosecutors press murder charges in Freiburg student's killing

Maria L., the 19-year-old victim, had worked with refugees before she was attacked and murdered in Freiburg in October. The Afghan migrant charged with her killing had been detained for another murder, in Corfu in 2013.

Officials announced the charges on Thursday in the southwestern city of Freiburg, opening a new move in last fall's crime that shocked the city of around 226,000 inhabitants and garnered national media attention.

The prosecution team accused suspect Hussein K. of having "attacked, strangled and raped" Maria L., a 19-year-old medical student who was on her way home from a party on October 16, 2016. He then left the victim in the Dreisam River where she drowned, they alleged. Her body was found in the river and her bicycle discovered nearby.

Deutschland Freiburg nach Mord an Studentin - Nähe Tatort (Getty Images/S. Gallup)

Maria died by drowning in the Dreisam

Authorities used a strand of hair found in the bushes near Maria's body to identify and arrest the suspect.

The prosecution's charge described K. as having killed Maria "insidiously and for sexual satisfaction."

Unknown age means juvenile court

At the time of his arrest, Hussein told police he was 17 years old. However, medical age experts commissioned by the prosecution team believe the suspect was at least 22 at the time of the crime. Due to the uncertainty, the case will be heard by the juvenile chamber of the Freiburg district court.

Under German law, an adolescent individual between the ages of 18 and 21 years of age can be tried according to juvenile law when the crime committed was affected by psychological conditions of youth (under 18) development. A murder conviction would result in up to 10 years jail time.

The young student victim had herself been involved in providing refugee aid. In the notice of her death last October, Maria L.'s family asked for donations towards a student initiative that supports refugees. 

A crime in the spotlight

K.'s arrest in December 2016 made national headlines when it was revealed that he had been on parole in Greece, where he had been detained on charges of murdering a woman on the isle of Corfu in 2013.

The Afghan national arrived in Germany in 2015 as an unaccompanied asylum-seeker and had been living with a German foster family.

The discovery of his background unleashed a debate in German media about refugee policy, with Chancellor Angela Merkel stating the crime should not be utilized to target "an entire group" of people such as asylum-seekers.

The case also lead to questions about why European police had failed to pick up the trail of Hussein after he disappeared.

Freiburg Gedenken an die ermordete Studentin Maria (DW/M. Saifullah)

Afghan nationals in Freiburg call for an end to violence against women at a memorial gathering

cmb/kl (AFP, dpa)

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