Trial begins in death of Turkish-German heroine
An 18-year-old defendant apologised Friday for the death of a young German-Turkish woman who became a national symbol of courage for giving her life trying to protect two teenage girls.
At the start of his trial in the western German city of Darmstadt, the accused, Sanel Masovic, acknowledged that he had slapped student teacher Tugce Albayrak last November after she confronted a group of men for harassing two young girls.
Her subsequent fall to the ground in the car park of a fast food restaurant put her in a coma and she died days later in hospital, on her 23rd birthday.
The attack was captured on a surveillance video later broadcast on national media, drawing a wave of shock and revulsion.
"I am deeply sorry for what I did," Masovic told the juvenile district court, where he is facing a charge of bodily harm with fatal consequences.
"I can't imagine the pain and suffering I inflicted on her family. I never thought she would die."
About 1,000 mourners attended Albayrak's funeral and President Joachim Gauck has said he is considering a mass online petition for her to be posthumously awarded the Federal Order of Merit, Germany's highest civilian distinction.
Chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed support for awarding the honour to a woman Gauck called a "role model" for showing "bravery and civil courage in an exemplary way".
German media also cast the case of Masovic, whose parents came from a Serbian village, as a cautionary tale of immigration and integration, pitting a delinquent with a previous criminal record against a successful woman with strong ties to her community.
Supporters of the victim's family organised a vigil in a park across from the courthouse Friday.
"We want to get a ball rolling -- the ball for justice, for a violence-free society, for tougher sentencing for murderers than tax evaders," they wrote in an invitation posted on a Facebook page dedicated to Albayrak.
© 2015 AFP