An Algerian man identified only as Farouk B went on trial Friday on charges of theft and sexual assault of a woman at Cologne’s main train station — the first such case to go to trial after the German city’s infamous mass sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve. According to the criminal charges, the 26-year-old man was part of a group of 10 men who surrounded a woman “with sexual motivation,” after which he started groping her and stole her mobile phone from her bag. The suspect, through his attorney, has denied all of the charges. His 23-year-old brother is also set to go on trial, although he has only been charged with theft of a different mobile phone. The attacks drew widespread outrage in Germany, as some 1,170 criminal complaints (of which 492 were sexual assaults) were lodged with local police in the following days, prompting the government to hurry through a reform of sexual assault laws that would make it easier to prosecute perpetrators. While there have been several convictions for theft related to the New Year’s Eve events, Farouk B is just one of two who has been identified as a sexual assault suspect.
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