BERLIN • An Iraqi accused of raping and murdering a teenage girl in Germany is facing trial in a case that has inflamed anti-migrant tensions amid an influx of asylum seekers.
The schoolgirl was attacked in May last year and the accused, Ali Bashar, 22, left Germany for northern Iraq shortly after. He was brought back in a mission in which federal police chief Dieter Romann was involved personally.
Bashar's trial for the rape and murder of 14-year-old Susanna Maria Feldman started yesterday under tight security in the city of Wiesbaden.
To Germany's far-right, the alleged killer, who is also accused of raping an 11-year-old girl in a separate case, has become a symbol of the threat allegedly posed by the wave of newcomers.
Before the trial, the anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party again blamed Chancellor Angela Merkel and her grand coalition or "GroKo" government for Susanna's death.
The AfD, in a Facebook post, said: "The problem isn't 'the right' but the knife-man immigration caused by the GroKo that has caused ever more bloody crimes."
The AfD became the biggest opposition party when it entered Parliament in late 2017, riding a wave of public anger over sexual assaults and other violent crimes committed by some recent migrants.
In another case last year, the fatal stabbing of a German man in the eastern city of Chemnitz - allegedly by immigrants - sparked an outbreak of mob violence in which far-right extremists hunted down people who looked like foreigners on the streets.
Bashar, along with his parents and five siblings, first arrived in Germany in 2015, the year that saw the peak of the immigrant influx that would bring more than one million people to Germany, Europe's top economic power.
His request for asylum was rejected in December 2016, but he obtained a temporary residence permit pending his appeal.
In May last year, Bashar allegedly beat, raped and strangled Susanna to death in a wooded area near his refugee shelter in Wiesbaden.
Her body was then buried in a shallow grave and covered with leaves, twigs and soil.
When her body was found two weeks later, Bashar and his family had left Germany for Arbil in Iraq. After a public outcry, Bashar was arrested by Kurdish security forces, and the German federal police hauled him back from Iraq.
Despite the absence of a formal extradition treaty between Iraq and Germany, Bashar was put on a flight to Germany, with pictures of him disembarking from the plane under heavy police guard making the front pages of newspapers.
Bashar also faces charges over a robbery in which he allegedly beat, strangled and threatened a man with a knife in a park, to steal his watch, bag, phone and bank card.