Suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance won’t respond to charges at his unrelated German trial

BERLIN (AP) — A man who is also under investigation in the disappearance of British toddler Madeleine McCann won’t respond to unrelated charges of sexual offenses at a trial that opened last week in Germany, his lawyer said Friday.

The 47-year-old German, who has been identified by media as Christian Brueckner, faces three counts of rape and two of sexual abuse of children in the trial at the Braunschweig state court in northern Germany. He is alleged to have committed the offenses in Portugal between 2000 and 2017.

“The defendant is using his right to remain silent,” defense lawyer Friedrich Fülscher told the Braunschweig state court, German news agency dpa reported. Fülscher added that he expects his client to be acquitted. He has called the evidence in the indictment “abysmal.”

There are no formal pleas in the German legal system, and defendants aren’t obliged to respond to the charges.

The suspect hasn’t been charged in the McCann case, in which he is under investigation on suspicion of murder. He spent many years in Portugal, including in the resort of Praia da Luz around the time of Madeleine’s disappearance there in 2007. He has denied any involvement in her disappearance.

He is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence in Germany for a rape he committed in Portugal in 2005.

The trial opened a week ago but was quickly adjourned on its first day after Fülscher filed a challenge against a lay judge on the panel hearing the case, who was alleged once to have spread a call to kill former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on social media. Prosecutors joined that challenge.

The woman has been removed from the case and now faces an investigation herself on suspicion of making a public call to commit crimes.