Ruhr-Universität Bochum
The man was sentenced to 11 years in prison Google

A 32-year-old Iraqi refugee has been found guilty of the rape of two Chinese students at a university in western Germany.

The initial arrest of the man fired off a national debate about sexual violence by asylum seekers.

Ziyad K admitted to the charges late in the trial, after he had at first refused to make a statement to the court.

It was found that he had almost strangled one of the women to death during an attack at the Ruhr University Bochum in North Rhine-Westphalia.

During the assault, which took place in August 2016, the man wrapped a shoelace around her throat and threatened her with a stick so that she would not move.

The 22-year-old victim, who flew back from Beijing for the proceedings, told the court: "I thought I was going to die."

Police arrested the man after a friend of one of the victims took a picture of him lurking behind a bush in the same spot that he had attacked her.

According to newspaper Der Westen, evidence gathered at the crime scenes linked his DNA to both victims, leading the court to the near certain conclusion that he was the attacker.

"Eleven years is a very hefty sentence. But it is the price for what you have done to these blameless victims," said judge Volker Talarowski.

"We haven't put refugees in general on trial. We have put on trial a man who was an asylum seeker, and we judged his guilt based on the evidence in this case, no more and no less."

The 32-year-old defendant arrived in Germany in 2015 with his wife and two children after fleeing from Iraq.

The man was arrested in November 2016 shortly after a teenage asylum seeker from Afghanistan was arrested for the rape and murder of a young woman in Freiburg.

Critics of the government said that Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door refugee policy was to blame for the assaults. But Merkel rounded on critics, calling the attacks "terrible isolated incidents."

"The fact that some people want to exploit them is something we have to withstand and defend ourselves against," she said in December 2016.