BERLIN (Reuters) - Iraq has extradited a 20-year-old Iraqi suspected of raping and killing a 14-year-old girl in Germany last month, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Saturday.
“I’m glad that the alleged perpetrator wanted by German authorities is back in Germany,” Seehofer said in a statement, adding that the investigation of the case could now be accelerated.
“For the girl’s family, that is only a small consolation, and my thoughts are with them during these difficult hours,” Seehofer said. “But for the state and our society, it is important that crimes are cleared up and suspects are brought to justice.”
Police in the Kurdistan region of Iraq said on Saturday the Iraqi suspect had admitted to the murder of 14-year-old Susanna Feldman in Germany, where the case has stoked the immigration debate.
The Jewish teenager from Mainz near Frankfurt was found dead on Wednesday in a wooded area in Wiesbaden, near a refugee center where the alleged attacker had lived, German police said.
An autopsy showed she had been the victim of a violent and sexual attack. Police said there was no evidence her religion had been a factor and the Central Council of Jews in Germany cautioned against attributing any anti-Semitic motive.
Kurdish security forces had taken the suspect, identified by German authorities as Ali Bashar, into custody on Friday after he fled from Germany last week.
“Officers in Zakho (in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region) called me and said they had located the suspect and would arrest him as soon as he comes to the city,” Dohuk city police chief Tariq Ahmed told Reuters.
“He had been staying at a hotel in Dohuk and after realizing the police were after him left for Zakho to stay at a relative’s house. He was asleep there at night and was arrested in that house at 5:30 (a.m.),” Ahmed said.
He said the suspect had confessed to killing the German teenager during interrogation by Kurdish security authorities.
German media reported earlier that Bashar was expected to be extradited to Germany on Saturday evening and questioned by German investigators on Sunday.
German federal police declined to comment on the details emerging from the suspect’s arrest or on the report on the timing of extradition.
Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her dismay at the crime and said it should be a reminder to Germans of the need to do whatever possible for the integration of immigrants.
“The incredible suffering experienced by the family, the victim, affects everyone, including me,” she said on the sidelines of a G7 summit meeting in Canada.
“The cooperation in this regard between German and Kurdish security authorities worked well here ... It is good that the alleged perpetrator was caught, that he probably also will be returning to Germany,” Merkel said.
She added, “This is a reminder to all of us, first, to take the task of integration very seriously, to make our common values very clear, again and again. But also to punish any crime. We can only live together if we all stick to our laws.”
Merkel’s decision to take in large numbers of asylum seekers during Europe’s 2015 migrant crisis has stirred a political backlash, with many politicians calling for new rules to make it easier to deport immigrants.
Bashar had been living in Germany as a refugee since 2015, German media have reported.
German police set up a special call center for tips from the public and issued releases in Arabic and Turkish. They said on Thursday that Bashar had likely fled to Erbil in the KRG.
Reporting by Reuters Television in Dohuk, Iraq and Michael Nienaber in Berlin with additional reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein in Baghdad; editing by Mark Heinrich and Louise Heavens