Number of Cologne New Year's Eve assault charges rises to 561

Eight new complaints were filed Tuesday related to a series of incidents in which women have reported being molested, groped and assaulted by groups of migrant men in Cologne, Germany, on New Year's Eve.

The new filings bring the number of charges to 561, from the 553 that had been recorded late Monday, said head prosecutor Ulrich Bremer. An earlier police report had mistakenly stated that the number of charges had risen by one hundred.

So far authorities have investigated 12 men - five of whom have been detained - on minor charges such as theft. Cologne's police department had previously spoken of 20 suspects. However, the police department has been relieved of primary jurisdiction on the case after being heaped with much criticism for their handling of it.

But the women filing the complaints have argued that the incidents on December 31 were much more serious than that, with the men allegedly groping, molesting and even raping women who were prevented from escaping by a horde of about 1,000 men.

All the men under investigation hail originally from Northern Africa.

Bremer refused to give numbers on the overall number of men who have been questioned in relation to the case. He also would not say how many of the 561 complaints include allegations of sexual assault.

On Monday, when the overall figure stood at 553, about 45 per cent of the complaints were said to regard crimes of a sexual nature.

The case has loosed a series of anguished debates across Germany, primarily about the wisdom of Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision last year to implement an open arms policy towards asylum seekers if such people were, indeed, responsible for the New Year's Eve assaults.

There have also been debates about police preparedness and whether the incident means Germany will have to struggle harder to integrate the refugees who have already arrived in Germany, or toughen laws that could be used to deport them.

Cologne has been the focal point of the debate, but similar incidents were recorded in cities across Europe such as Hamburg and Helsinki, sparking debate about whether the assaults were planned and coordinated.

Police in the southern German city of Nuremberg on Tuesday reported that they have also begun to investigate complaints that a group of about 20 Northern African men spent part of New Year's Eve grabbing women and forcing kisses upon them.

At least four women have filed complaints, the police reported.

Last update: Sun, 21/08/2016 - 12:54

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