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A Cologne Salafist imam could be placed under criminal investigation after blaming 'half-naked' women for provoking mass sexual attacks on New Year's Eve.
The comments provoked widespread outrage on social media, and Green party politician Volker Beck filed a criminal complaint against Imam Sami Abu-Yusuf, after he told a Russian television channel the victims of the mass attacks on January 1 were molested "due to the way they dressed".
"If they're half-naked and wearing perfume, it's not surprising that such things would happen," he told REN TV.
More than 800 attacks took place in the city on New Year's Eve, with women attacked and harassed by a mob of men described as of Arab or North African appearance.
In a follow up interview with Express newspaper Sami Abu-Yusuf said that the remarks had been "taken out of context" and continued: "There were women scantily clad women who were wearing perfume as they walked through the drunken crowd. For some North Africans, this was reason to grope the women."
Abu-Yusuf, who preaches at the Al-Tawheed mosque in the city's Kalk neighbourhood, continued: "That doesn't mean that I think women shouldn't be allowed to dress like that. Everyone has to accept that. And if they don't agree, they need to go to another country. That's the truth."
A police source told media that the mosque community was conservative but "moderate", and the attacks had been condemned in Friday prayers.
Regional chief prosecutor Ulf Willuhn told the Koelner Stadt-Unzeiger authorities had received the criminal complaint, and were considering whether there was evidence to bring criminal charges against Abu-Yusuf.
More than 1,000 victims of attacks
The remarks came as North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Ralf Jaeger revealed that the full scale of the attacks. He said there were 1049 victims of crime on New Year's Eve, 80% of them female. Of the 821 offences committed, 359 were sex attacks, he told the Committee on Internal Affairs, reported Focus.
He said that there were 30 suspects of the attacks, all of them North African, and 15 of them asylum seekers. He said that none were residents of Cologne. Jaeger rejected claims that authorities had concealed the attacks in their aftermath, insisting they had "nothing to hide".
The attacks had sparked debate about Chancellor Angela Merkel's open door policy for asylum seekers, with parliament recently passing a bill allowing authorities to deport refugees found guilty of serious offences more easily.