Tags: Angela Merkel | German | Leaders | Condemn | Mass | Public Assault | Women

German Leaders Condemn Mass Public Assault on Women Revelers

Image: German Leaders Condemn Mass Public Assault on Women Revelers
German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Tuesday, 05 Jan 2016 10:52 AM

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition condemned a "new dimension" of crime after scores of women reported being sexually assaulted as they passed though a group of about 1,000 men during New Year's Eve celebrations in downtown Cologne.

With Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere saying the perpetrators were "people apparently with a migrant background," the incident at the city's main train station stoked Germany's debate about how to deal with a record number of asylum seekers as news reports and video of the melee spread.

Residents shouldn't harbor "blanket suspicion" against refugees fleeing to Germany to escape persecution, de Maiziere said Tuesday.

"This is obviously a new dimension in organized crime," Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement. "All the perpetrators must be investigated and brought to justice. We will not accept these cowardly and abhorrent attacks."

Cologne police have reviewed about 90 criminal complaints from women who described being robbed, sexually harassed and in one case raped as revelers poured into Germany's fourth-largest city from the train station at the foot of its cathedral, police spokeswoman Stefanie Becker said by phone Tuesday.

Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker held an emergency meeting of city authorities to discuss measures to avoid a repeat.

Witnesses described the men as between 15 and 35 and "of North African appearance," Becker said. The scale of the assaults became clear as criminal complaints were filed after Jan. 1 and two suspects have been arrested, she said.

More than 1 million refugees arrived last year in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, the largest number fleeing civil war in Syria. Stephan Mayer, a lawmaker in Merkel's Christian Democrat-led bloc, suggested a possible link to the Cologne events.

Organized Assault

"It would be terrible if such crimes were committed by some of those to whom we've generously taken into our country," Mayer, a member of the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union, said in a statement. "If it turns out that the majority of assailants indeed came from Arab or North African regions, that shouldn't be hushed up."

Merkel, who is facing criticism from the CSU and her own Christian Democratic Union for declining to cap the number of arrivals, reaffirmed her principled stance in her first public appearance of 2016.

"In our constitution, it says that human dignity is inviolable," she told carol singers at the chancellery in Berlin on Tuesday. "That applies not only to Germans and people who live in Germany," but worldwide, she said.

Maas later told a news conference the assailants were well-organized.

"If a thousand people gather and commit the same violation, then there is some level of organization involved," he said.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition condemned a "new dimension" of crime after scores of women reported being sexually assaulted as they passed though a group of about 1,000 men during New Year's Eve celebrations in downtown Cologne.
Angela Merkel, German, Leaders, Condemn, Mass, Public Assault, Women
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2016-52-05
Tuesday, 05 Jan 2016 10:52 AM
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