German authorities announced Monday that a 26-year-old Algerian man has been arrested in connection to a sexual assault case during New Year's celebrations in Cologne, according to reports. On New Year's Eve, about 1,000 young men circled women in Cologne groping and, in one reported case, raping women.
Prosecutors reportedly said the Algerian man was taken in custody over the weekend from a refugee home in the nearby town of Kerpen. The suspect is accused of groping a woman and stealing her mobile phone, Cologne chief prosecutor Ulrich Brewer told the Associated Press (AP). Last week, two other Algerian asylum-seekers were arrested in Kerpen and the western city of Aachen respectively, but both on robbery charges, Bremer reportedly added.
Bremer told AP that nearly 500 women have come forward with serial assault allegations. So far, 21 people have been charged with non-sexual offenses, while eight others are awaiting trial.
The incident sparked protests in Germany and also drew harsh criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy for refugees and migrants.
Last week, Merkel condemned the assaults and said that she would be willing to make deportation practices stricter, while stepping up police presence. Merkel also said if amendments to the law or an increased police presence were needed, those would be “necessary responses.” She added that the federal government would take a close look into whether enough has been done to enforce the deportation of culprits in order to send a "clear sign" to those who violate Germany's laws.