Moroccan convicted of theft in first trial over Cologne crimes

BERLIN - A Moroccan man who is the first person to be convicted for New Year's Eve crimes in the German city of Cologne was given a six-month suspended sentence on Wednesday for stealing a cellphone and possessing drugs.

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The Cologne district court said it also fined the 23-year-old asylum seeker 100 euros ($110).

The defendant stole a cellphone from a woman as she photographed the city's cathedral. The 20-year-old didn't see who had stolen the phone but caught him after an Afghan refugee who had witnessed the theft pointed him out. The man apologized to her at Wednesday's brief trial.

Police found a small quantity of amphetamines in one of the man's socks after he was arrested.

He was carrying a document from Dec. 18 showing that he had registered as an asylum seeker. The court stressed that the status and future of the man's asylum application weren't a matter for Wednesday's proceedings.

The spate of thefts and assaults on women outside Cologne's main station, blamed largely on foreigners, caused public uproar as Germany deals with a huge influx of migrants. More than 1,000 criminal complaints were filed, over 400 of those alleging crimes of a sexual nature.

Neither of the two trials scheduled in Cologne on Wednesday involves allegations of sexual assaults.

In a separate case being heard later in the day, a 22-year-old Tunisian and an 18-year-old Moroccan are charged with stealing a camera.

Names have not been released in accordance with German privacy laws.

Amid outrage over the Cologne crimes, the government is moving to make it easier to deport criminal foreigners. The changes would mean that even a suspended prison sentence would be grounds for deportation if someone is found guilty of certain crimes - including bodily harm, sexual assault, violent theft and serial shoplifting.


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