Asylum denied

Questions over how murder suspect was able to flee Germany

Iraqi refugee murder suspect, germany, susanna f. ali bashar
An impromtu shrine. Source: DPA

Politicians across Germany demanded answers and change on Friday after a 20-year-old Iraqi refugee already under investigation for several violent crimes was accused of raping and murdering a 14-year-old German girl. Somehow the suspect, Ali Bashar, was able to flee the country with his entire family seemingly overnight, but Iraqi authorities had him in custody on Friday.

The victim, Susanna F., was reported missing by her mother on May 23 after she didn’t come home from a night out in Wiesbaden, a city in central Germany. Her body was found on June 6 next to railroad tracks in Erbenheim, a suburb of Wiesbaden, after a 13-year-old resident of a nearby refugee shelter where Mr. Bashar also resided tipped off police.

“She had been skipping school since February, and she was frequently missing, though the police didn’t need to get involved. So in that respect it was no simple missing person case,” Stefan Müller, head of police in the state of Hesse, said in a press conference Thursday.

The case had been making headlines as police searched for the girl for over two weeks but was quickly linked to the ongoing debate about refugees in Germany after the body was found and Mr. Bashar was named as a suspect. He had been living in Wiesbaden since April 2016 and was denied asylum that December, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The suspect was known to police and under investigation for armed robbery as well as for a separate case where he was caught illegally carrying a knife. Mr. Bashar was also arrested for bumping into and spitting on a police officer, though he was allowed to walk away after that arrest. He was also accused of raping an 11-year-old in the refugee shelter, near where Susanna’s body was found, but police didn’t charge him after their investigation.

“The real scandal isn’t that we’re dealing with a refugee, but rather that it’s someone that is a criminal,” said Joachim Stamp, the integration minister for the state of North-Rhine Westphalia and member of the business-friendly FDP party, on broadcaster ZDF.

Iraqi refugee murder suspect, germany, susanna f. ali bashar
Journalists snapped pictures of the suspect at a press conference. Source: DPA

Armin Schuster, a domestic policy expert for the conservative CDU, wants prosecutors to do more to protect the public from those accused of violent crimes. “One wonders why the suspect still wasn’t in protective custody after he became known to police in connection with such violence,” Mr. Schuster told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

However, officials not only dropped the ball before Susanna’s death, they also inexplicably allowed Mr. Bashar as well as his father, mother and four siblings to flee using one-way tickets from Düsseldorf to Turkey on June 2. They used names unknown to German immigration authorities. Wiesbaden prosecutors said they suspect the family is trying to make its way to Erbil, Iraq.

In Bild, a tabloid that printed a grisly alleged timeline of the crime, the Social Democrats’ interior expert, Burkhard Lischka, said the questionable travel documents coupled with the destination should have been a red flag for immigration officers at Düsseldorf airport. “The federal police could have used a simple fingerprint to realize that this is a criminal on the run.” Mr. Lischka called for Interior Minister Horst Seehofer “to ensure that the existing control mechanisms for entering and leaving [Germany] are actually used.”

Asylum seekers are a daily topic as prosecutors investigate the Bremen office of the immigration office, known by its German acronym BAMF, for improperly approving over 1,000 asylum applications. The country is also still wrestling with the influx of refugees that followed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s public pledge to open the doors to them in 2015.

“We have to talk to the Iraqi government as soon as we know where this man is to have him extradited,” Omid Nouripour, a member of the environmentalist Green Party, told Bild. “He has to be tried.”

Prosecutors said they had no indication the crime was connected to anti-semitism — Susanna was Jewish — but Mainz Rabbi Aharon Ran Vernikovsky told the Jüdische Allgemeine newspaper that he was shocked by the crime: “We will be there for Susanna’s family and, however possible, help and support them.”

Andrew Bulkeley is an editor in Berlin for Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: a.bulkeley@vhb.de

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