Eleven men, most of them from Syria, have gone on trial in Germany over the gang rape of an 18-year-old woman last October.

The defendants, aged between 18 and 30, were due to appear at Freiburg district court in northwestern Germany charged with raping the young woman outside a nightclub or failing to prevent the attack.

The suspects comprise of one German citizen, eight Syrians, two Algerians and an Iraqi.

The case caused a political storm in Germany amid a national debate over levels of migration. Former CDU Secretary General Kramp-Karrenbauer, for example, called for a harder line in dealing with criminal asylum seekers in Freiburg.

The regional court is preparing for a mammoth trial: 27 trial days have been scheduled, about 50 witnesses have already been summoned. The verdict is estimated for December.

The defendants are accused of spiking the victim’s drink inside the nightclub then subjecting her to a gang rape outside.

According to the prosecution, the woman had previously been offered a tablet of the drug Ecstasy in the club and an unknown substance had been mixed into the drink. The victim was thus defenceless and helpless and went to police the following day.

The primary defendant, a 22-year-old from Syria, is accused of being a prolific offender who was the subject of unenforced arrest warrants for other crimes at the time of the alleged rape.

Heightened security measures are being applied at the court due to the high visitor and media interest.

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