German officials on Thursday said an Iraqi man suspected of raping and killing a 14-year-old girl had likely fled the country and returned to Iraq, in a case that has fuelled concerns about slow deportations of failed asylum seekers.
The victim, Susanna Feldman, was Jewish, although the Central Council of Jews in Germany cautioned against attributing an anti-Semitic motive to the crime.
The suspected involvement of a failed asylum seeker could add to a backlash against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open the doors to over a million migrants in 2015.
The teenager was reported missing on May 22 and found dead on Wednesday in a wooded area near train tracks, according to police.
Police said they were looking for 20-year-old Ali Bashar, who they believe fled to Erbil, Iraq, with his family days ago. They said he had been denied asylum but had not been deported.
Police said they detained a second suspect, a 35-year-old Turkish citizen who was not named, but released him late on Thursday after “new evidence” emerged that exonerated him.
Politicians from across the political spectrum called for a comprehensive investigation, and how it was possible for the Iraqi man to flee Germany with his parents and siblings under what police said were false names.
Eckhardt Rehberg, a conservative member of the parliamentary budget committee, said funds were needed to reform the entire asylum process. “The deportation possibilities must be simplified now,” he said.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany said the girl and her mother were members of the Jewish community in Mainz, but cautioned against reaching premature conclusions about the motive for the crime.
The group has warned in recent months about an increase in anti-Semitism incidents and attacks, and the German government has created a new post to fight anti-Semitism.
“Many of the details of the case are still unclear. We expect a rapid and comprehensive investigation from the prosecutorial authorities, and hard consequences for the perpetrator or perpetrators,” the council said in a statement.
Memories of the Nazi Holocaust make any sign of anti-Semitism in Germany especially sensitive. Police have said figures for 2017 suggested most anti-Semitic crimes were by far-right extremists rather than immigrants, who are largely Muslim.
A spokesman for the Wiesbaden police said there was no evidence that the girl’s religion played a role in the crime.
Wiesbaden senior public prosecutor Oliver Kuhn told reporters that both suspects “lived in refugee centres in Wiesbaden” a city on the Rhine river across from Mainz.
Kuhn said an autopsy conducted overnight showed the girl had been the victim of a sexual attack.
Police said they had been tipped off about the location of the body and the identity of one of the suspected attackers by a 13-year-old migrant who came to the Wiesbaden police station on Sunday.