Muslim abused his ‘bride’, aged 12
A 27-year-old Lebanese man in Australia has been sentenced to a maximum 10 years’ jail for sexually abusing a girl, aged 12, whom he had married at a private ceremony.
Judge Deborah Sweeney said the man, who arrived in Australia on a student visa in June 2013, asked two religious leaders at a Hunter Valley mosque to arrange the marriage. They declined, clearly telling him it was illegal.
However, Sheikh Muhammad Tasawar, an Iranian cleric based at a different mosque, agreed to marry the couple.
After the ceremony the couple had sexual relations and continued to do so while staying in a series of motels before moving into a rented house in western Sydney.
The paedophile, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to the persistent sexual abuse of a child.
Despite being told that such a marriage wasn’t legal, the man embarked on a “determined and deliberate pursuit of the girl” and with the help of one of her relatives, organised for a ceremony to take place at a private home on January 12, 2014.
In setting a non-parole period of seven-and-a-half years, Judge Sweeney said:
Neither his cultural or religious beliefs excuse his offence.
The court heard he believed a Muslim girl could marry once she reached puberty.
The girl’s attitude towards the marriage was not a mitigating factor, Judge Sweeney said. Similarly, the fact that she fell pregnant but miscarried, although serious, did not aggravate the offence.
Outside court, the man’s lawyer, Alex Radojev, said the “harsh” sentence – which was “beyond my expectation” – would be appealed.
The man was originally charged with 25 counts of sexual intercourse with an underage child. In October last year he pleaded guilty to one count of persistent sexual abuse of a child, which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years’ jail.
His student visa has been cancelled and he has been detained in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre since March last year.
The court was told the man first saw the girl at a Hunter Valley mosque in November 2013. He made inquiries about marrying her but after a supervised meeting he was told she was not interested as he was “too old”.
However, he began contacting her by text message, sometimes sending dozens of messages a day. About a month later the girl began communicating with him.
In early February 2014, the man attempted to become her guardian so he could enroll her in high school. They were referred to Centrelink and Family and Community Services. Police were alerted.
The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was examined at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead after she complained of sharp right abdominal pain. Doctors found she had an ectopic pregnancy – where the fertilised egg implants outside the uterus – and miscarried.
In March 2014, Sheikh Tasawar, 35, pleaded guilty to the offence of solemnisation of a marriage by an unauthorised person. He was fined $500 and his religious leader visa was cancelled.
The girl’s “husband” will be eligible for parole in August 2021 although he is likely to be deported on release.