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Trial into Afghan migrant who killed Freiburg student begins

September 5, 2017

Hussein K. has testified before the court, as his trial for murdering a student begins. He arrived in Germany as an asylum seeker despite having been previously arrested in Greece for almost killing a woman.

Freiburg Mordprozess beginnt
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Seeger

Hussein K. has admitted that he lied about his age when he arrived in Germany as a migrant in 2015, as his trial over the murder of student Maria L. opened in Freiburg on Tuesday.

Hussein K. is suspected of raping and killing the 19-year-old medical student in Freiburg in October last year.

Read more: Afghan asylum seekers apologetic about Freiburg murder

He told the court that he was 18 when he arrived in Germany, and not 16 as he initially claimed. He said he lied about his age because "when you're a minor, the situation in Germany is much better for you."

Freiburg - The Refugee Debate

Hussein K. also disclosed other details of his identity that had until Tuesday remained unclear. The young migrant was born and raised in Afghanistan but moved to Iran at age 13. After "problems with the police," he then fled to Turkey, before moving on to Greece and finally Germany.

He told the court that his life in Germany had been marked by alcohol and drug abuse. 

The young migrant is alleged to have drowned Maria L. by laying her unconscious body in the Dreisam river. He was arrested in December last year after DNA evidence and video footage near the scene linked him to the crime.

He is currently being tried as a youth, although the court could move to convict him as an adult. However, adults between the age of 18 and 21 can still be tried as minors.

Germany's migrant policy under the microscope

The case sparked nationwide debate over Germany's migration policy. Hussein K. arrived in Germany during the height of the migrant crisis in the autumn of 2015, a year before he is alleged to have killed the young student. Arriving without documents, he was allowed to register as an unaccompanied minor.

Read more: How European databases failed to catch Freiburg murder suspect

However, following his arrest in December in connection with the murder, it emerged that Hussein K. had previously been  convicted in Greece for almost killing a woman by pushing her off a cliff. Despite being sentenced to 10 years, he was released after just over a year in order to make space in Greece's crowded prisons. 

Freiburg Mordprozess beginnt
Hussein K. has insisted that statements over his sexual history only be made in private.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Seeger

After he was released, he reportedly went underground and joined the wave of newly-arrived migrants from the Middle East to sneak out of Greece and travel to Germany.

The revelations triggered a fresh wave of anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to effectively tolerate the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees in 2015. Around 10 supporters for the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party protested outside of the courtroom. Police said they had been made aware of the group's plans to protest beforehand, and that it did not turn violent. 

Parts of trial to be conducted in private

At the beginning of trial opened Tuesday, the defendant's lawyer, Sebastian Glathe, told the judge that his client had "recently decided to address the allegations," albeit in a private testimony, away from the public. The move came as a surprise, as Hussein K. had refused to give any sort of statement during his 10 months in custody.

Despite protests from the prosecution and the victims' parents, the judge agreed that any statement Hussein K. made concerning his sexual history would be private. 

Prosecutors have also been barred from asking the defendant on the incident in Greece.

Editor's note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.

Murder in Freiburg

dm/msh (dpa, AFP)