Albanian man arrested in connection with Israeli's Berlin murder as new case details emerge

Published April 11th, 2015 - 07:35 GMT

The 28-year-old suspect was arrested in the Czech Republic Friday evening, according to police, in an area close to the German border. His name was not immediately released.

Police said the Albanian met the victim, 22-year-old Yosi Damari, at a Berlin hostel where the Israeli had checked in on April 3, and suspect he carried out the killing the following day. They issued a European arrest warrant.

Police said the motive remains unclear. Germany will seek the suspect’s extradition.

Damari’s body was found by passersby early Sunday, beaten beyond recognition in the ruins of a Gothic church in Berlin, with his Israeli passport on his person.

The Israeli embassy said Thursday that Damari had sought their help because he was short of funds for a flight.

“The dead man had visited the Israeli embassy on Good Friday (April 3) and we helped him with a few matters,” an embassy spokeswoman said.

She said he asked for his family in Israel to be contacted so they could help him buy a plane ticket.

Consul Eyal Saso told Israel’s Channel 2 news that the embassy had contacted Damari’s family and they agreed to fly him back.

Saso said the embassy sent Damari a list of places he could stay and that he had spent the first night of Passover at the city’s Chabad house.

A police spokesperson said officials used DNA evidence and a passport found on the body to confirm the identity of Damari.

German officials say the area where Damari was found, near Berlin’s City Hall, is a known drug haven, but did not rule out that the killing could have been a hate crime.

“We’re investigating all directions,” a police spokesman said, according to German paper Berliner Zeitung.

Police opened a murder investigation into the case after Damari was found in the ruins of the 14th century Church of the Franciscan Monastery, which was destroyed during World War II.

The site is near City Hall and Alexanderplatz, which has seen an increase in violent crime in recent years including two high-profile killings of young men.

Police said that Damari is believed to have “incurred massive injuries that led to his death” between 5 and 9 pm on Saturday and was in the capital as a tourist “at least since Friday.”

“The place the body was found is also the scene of the crime,” it added, renewing a call for witnesses to come forward.

Damari had approached the Jewish community last week asking for food and a place to sleep, a rabbi said Wednesday.

Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal described him as a “man in his early 20s who came to us during the day last Friday and didn’t have a place to sleep and didn’t have anything to eat.”

Teichtal, who is a community rabbi in Berlin and also the head of the Chabad Jewish Education Center in the city, said a fellow rabbi arranged a place for Damari to sleep at a community center near Alexanderplatz — less than a kilometer from where he was found Sunday morning.

“We arranged everything for him, but then he didn’t show up again,” Teichtal said.

Three people have come forward with information in the case, police said Wednesday, without providing further details.

In recent months, police have stepped up patrols around Alexanderplatz in an attempt to crack down on violent crime.

Despite Germany’s past as home of the Nazis who organized the Holocaust of Europe’s Jews, Berlin has become a popular destination for Israeli tourists.

Some 20,000 to 30,000 Israelis, mostly young people, have moved to Berlin in recent years.

AP and AFP contributed to this report.


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