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Hundreds rally in Arab town for return of body of student murdered in Australia

‘This is a message to Prime Minister Netanyahu that we need Aiia home right now,’ her sister says at the demonstration

Demonstrators take part in a rally in the northern city of Baqa al-Gharbiya on January 19, 2018, calling for the return of the body of Aiia Maasarwe, an Israeli student murdered in Australia. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Demonstrators take part in a rally in the northern city of Baqa al-Gharbiya on January 19, 2018, calling for the return of the body of Aiia Maasarwe, an Israeli student murdered in Australia. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Hundreds of people attended a rally Saturday in the hometown of an Israeli student murdered in Australia this week, with demonstrators accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of not doing enough to swiftly return her body.

Aiia Maasarwe, 21, was killed Wednesday in the Melbourne suburb of Bundoora while on a video call with her sister. Her body was found in nearby bushes hours later.

Codey Herrmann, a 20-year-old aspiring rapper who performs as MC Codez, was arraigned Saturday at the Melbourne Magistrates Court, where he was charged with murder and rape. He did not apply for bail.

Maasarwe, from the predominantly Arab city of Baqa al-Gharbiya in northern Israel, was studying at La Trobe University in Melbourne for the past five months as an exchange student from Shanghai University in China.

Codey Herrmann (Facebook)

There have been no known statements from Israeli officials on the murder. The Foreign Ministry said Saturday evening that Maasarwe’s body was being held by Australian police and that it was working on its return to Israel as soon as possible.

“This is a message to Prime Minister Netanyahu that we need Aiia home right now,” Maasarwe’s sister Nour told reporters during the demonstration. “She needs to be back here with us, her family.”

“I can’t believe that we just lost her,” Nour Maasarwe continued. “I was just going to visit her next week and now she will to come to visit us, but only her body.”

A local activist who took part in the rally criticized Netanyahu for not meeting with Maasarwe’s family.

“It is already Saturday and the incident happened Wednesday. We’ve been waiting until now. The Australian prime minister already met with Aiia’s father, they sat together and had time to talk,” Muadad Biyadsa told Channel 13 news.

“Neither the foreign minister or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have taken the time to sit and speak with Aiia’s family or take steps to bring her back as soon as possible,” he added.

Netanyahu also serves as Israel’s foreign minister.

Aiia Maasarwe pictured in a Melbourne cafe, October 1, 2018. (Instagram)

Separately, professional soccer team Melbourne City FC said ahead of its game Saturday that players would wear black armbands in honor of Maasarwe.

Earlier in the day, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited a memorial set up where Maasarwe’s body was found, accompanied by his wife and two daughters.

“Later today, I’m going to be meeting with her father. Words will fail me, I’m sure, as one father to another,” Morrison told reporters.

“I think that the country is very shaken … but at the same time, as always, reaches out and seeks to comfort and I want to thank those Australians for doing that and I was pleased to be able to, with my family, simply do the same,” he added.

After visiting the crime scene, where dozens of flowers and messages from the public were left nearby in support, Maasarwe’s father Saeed broke down in tears.

“I feel very, very sad on the one side, but on the other side, when I get this support and this help — from the people, from the community, from the police — it makes the suffering feel a little better,” he told reporters.

“This is the last place my daughter… was,” he added, breaking down in tears. “I want to be with her for more time, but someone decided I cannot be.”

Several vigils were held for Maasarwe on Friday in Melbourne, including one where mourners filled the 86 tram — which she was believed to have ridden on her way home — with flowers.

People attend a vigil in memory of murdered Israeli student Aiia Maasarwe in Melbourne on January 18, 2019. (Allan LEE / AFP)

Maasarwe’s murder has sent a shock-wave through Melbourne, normally thought of as one of the world’s most liveable and safe cities.

Under the MC Codez moniker, Herrmann has in the past posted lyrics on Facebook about suicide and “demons in my mind.” Other lyrics include, “suicidal thoughts, yeah I’ll walk the line … keeping all the demons in my mind.”

On a different Facebook post from a page he operated under the name Kody Wrex, Herrmann on January 8 wrote “international girl of mystery, you knows who you are,” a message that Australian media believes may have been directed at Maasarwe.

Herrmann made news in 2015 after going missing for two weeks from the Bundoora Secondary College. He graduated from the institution a year later.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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