Asylum seeker first to be convicted in New Year's Eve Cologne attacks

The first person tried in connection with a series of thefts and sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year's Eve has been handed a fine and a six-month suspended sentence for theft, a court spokesman said.

The 23-year-old Moroccan asylum seeker, whose name was withheld in line with German privacy laws, was found guilty by a Cologne court of grabbing a mobile phone from a woman while she was taking a photo of the western German city's famed cathedral.

The police also found a small amount of amphetamines on the man during his arrest. The fine would amount to about 100 euros (110 dollars), the court said.

The 20-year-old victim recounted how she had chased down the man after he snatched her phone. She caught up with him after a bystander tripped him up, at which point he gave the phone back to her. The man apologized to her during the trial.

It was unclear how the sentence would affect the man's bid for asylum.

The Cologne crime wave during New Year's Eve celebrations sparked a huge debate in Germany about how to deal with asylum seekers found guilty of crimes and the country's ability to integrate the 1.1 million migrants who arrived in 2015.

More than 1,000 complaints were filed with Cologne police in the wake of the incident. About 40 per cent of those were complaints of a sexual nature ranging from harassment to rape. Many of the crimes were linked to men of North African descent.

Two other men - an 18-year-old Moroccan and a 22-year-old Tunisian - are charged with stealing a man's camera that night, and are due to be sentenced later on Wednesday.

Last update: Wed, 24/02/2016 - 15:41

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