Germany: 1st suspect held over Cologne sex assaults

A banner with flowers is placed on the steps to the Cologne cathedral, reading in English and Arabic "sexual harassment against women will not be tolerated". (AP)
A banner with flowers is placed on the steps to the Cologne cathedral, reading in English and Arabic "sexual harassment against women will not be tolerated". (AP)

Berlin - Authorities in Germany have arrested a 26-year-old Algerian man on suspicion of committing a sexual assault in Cologne during New Year's celebrations.

Cologne prosecutors said on Monday the unidentified asylum-seeker was arrested at a refugee home in the nearby town of Kerpen over the weekend.

The man is the first person to be held on sexual offence related charges, after a string of assaults in Cologne that sparked a debate about integration in Germany.

Prosecutor's office spokesperson Ulrich Bremer told The Associated Press that 497 women have come forward alleging sexual assault, including three rapes, during the celebrations.

The suspect in custody is accused of groping a woman and robbing her cellphone.

A total of 21 people have been charged with non-sexual offences.

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