WIESBADEN, Germany (Reuters) - An Iraqi immigrant was sentenced in Germany to life imprisonment on Wednesday for raping and killing a 14-year-old girl, a case seized on by the far right to make a disputed link between crime and a record influx of migrants in 2015.
The verdict brought an end to a case that had shocked Germany, stoked debate about Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to welcome almost 1 million asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa, and prompted accusations of racism against the far right for playing up links between crime and foreigners.
Ali Bashar, 22, arrived in Germany at the height of the 2015 crisis and was known to police for violent conduct before he raped and murdered Susanna Feldman. German authorities had rejected his asylum request.
Prosecutors said he fled back to Iraq after strangling the teenager in May 2018 and was arrested and extradited to Germany by Iraqi authorities a month later.
Wednesday’s verdict by the court in the western German city of Wiesbaden means Bashar will have to serve at least 15 years in prison, after which he could seek parole.
The high-profile case was used by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to bolster its assertions that the record arrival of migrants had triggered a rise in crime.
Germany’s mainstream parties accuse the anti-migrant AfD of racism for dwelling on migrant crime while ignoring police statistics showing that crime has been falling among both Germans and foreigners.
The AfD, which entered the German national parliament in a 2017 election by drawing support from opponents of Merkel’s liberal immigration policies, denied harboring racist views.
Reporting by Hakan Erdem; Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Mark Heinrich