An Algerian stood trial Friday in connection with the alleged sexual attacks on women in Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve. He was the first suspect to stand trial for the sexual offenses, the Associated Press reported.
The 26-year-old is accused of being a part of a group of 10 men who groped a woman at the central railway station and of stealing her cell phone on New Year’s Eve. He faces charges of sexual assault and theft. However, the suspect, whose trial is underway at Cologne’s regional court, has denied all charges against him.
The incident — blamed largely on refugees — triggered protests across the country and put the spotlight on asylum-seekers. Over 1,000 young men circled women in Cologne, groping, and in one reported case, raping women. Several suspects have reportedly been convicted of theft.
According to latest reports, Cologne police identified 153 suspects, 24 of whom were in investigative custody. Of the 153 suspects, 149 were reportedly non-Germans, most of them refugees or illegal immigrants. And 103 of the 153 suspects were from Morocco or Algeria, according to reports.
After the Cologne attacks, a group of about 20 people targeted six Pakistanis and a Syrian in January. The attackers were members of rocker and hooligan gangs who fixed a meeting through Facebook to start a “manhunt” of foreigners in the area.
Asylum-seekers in Europe have also come under increased scrutiny after the November 2015 Paris attacks, which killed 130 people. Some countries have imposed stricter border controls to manage the influx of refugees.