‘Fair trial’ call for Omani who wed underage girls in India

Business Sunday 24/July/2016 21:09 PM
By: Times News Service
‘Fair trial’ call for Omani who wed underage girls in India

Muscat: An Omani national has been under effective house arrest in India for more than two years while he awaits trial after being accused of marrying two underage girls.
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Now Dr. Mohammad Al Zadjali, Head of the Legal Committee, Majlis Al Shura and Chairman of Oman Lawyers Association, has called for an end to the legal limbo for the accused, who is 62, saying he should have his day in court.
“If he broke a law, he deserves a fair trial,’ he told Times of Oman. “Investigations should be taken under consideration that he is ‘innocent until proven guilty in court.
“I ask the Indian Embassy to address the Indian authorities to release the Omani and explain the reason for his detention while taking into consideration that he is an old man in his 60’s.”
Lawyers and relatives of the Omani pensioner, who has been released on bail to a hotel, also want Indian authorities to expedite his trial and claim his health has deteriorated in recent months.
“He went to India for treatment but we were surprised that he planned to marry two underage girls. We didn’t know he did that,” said the senior citizen’s son.
“But he has been there for the third year in a row because of a delay in his trial, and he is physically and mentally ill,” said the son.
The pensioner stands accused of an offence that the Indian authorities are keen to stamp out – underage marriage. The custom still prevails in rural India and is seen by poor families as a way to get their daughters out of poverty.
Charities and police forces across India have been targeting the offence and conducted raids on planned wedding parties when they suspect the bride is underage.
The Omani national, who is married and has eight children, said he left his home in Oman and travelled to India in April 2014.
He allegedly married two minors and was arrested on suspicion of rape and other violations under the “Protection of Children from Sexual Offences and Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.”
He said he was in jail for four and a half months before being released on bail.
He has pleaded his innocence and insisting ignorance of Indian law is to blame for his misfortune.
He does not deny that he married two girls, but he denies knowing that they were minors and the circumstances under which everything happened.
He claimed to Times of Oman, he first came to India as a medical tourist seeking treatment for his heart condition at the Kamini Hospital in Hyderabad, though he could name neither his cardiologist nor the medication he was on.
He says he was introduced to a broker of sorts, who dealt with marriages where young Hyderabadi Muslim girls were wedded to wealthy, aged men from the Middle East.
The broker allegedly persuaded him to get hitched with one such girl. The Omani national said he was told that the girl’s age was 19. Immediately after the Nikah, she said that she couldn’t go through with it. The broker intervened and the wedding was considered as good as annulled as the girl had a boyfriend whom she wanted to marry.
Within a span of five days or so, another wedding was arranged, this time with a 15-year-old girl. The very next day after the second marriage, the police raided his hotel and put him behind bars where he stayed for four and a half months before being granted bail, but he was not allowed to leave the country.
The broker, his associates and the girls’ parents are also facing criminal charges. The Omani citizen vehemently denies paying money to the parents of the bride in exchange for the wedding.
“There are only three places for me here–my hotel room, the mosque and the hospital. This is my life here. On top of everything else, I’m losing my eyesight. I can hardly see a thing,” the pensioner said.
The city of Hyderabad has for many years witnessed this trend of Muslim girls from poor households being married off to older, richer men from the Middle East.
The Head of Legal Committee, Majlis Al Shura said: ‘Ignorance of the Indian Law and him entering his seventh decade of his life (made him commit this mistake); the girl’s family were also supposed to tell him that it is against the law.”
“It doesn’t make a difference and in all cases, if he broke a law, he deserves a fair trial.
“The Indian authorities arrested and detained the Omani national arbitrarily for three months before he made bail and forcefully residing in India, while his personal items are confiscated, for three years without giving him a fair trial for breaking an Indian law.”
“Detaining a person should be for legal reasons and for a specific time to protect the dignity of the individual until investigations are underway.”

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