ABIU DHABI // A 14-year-old Brazilian girl who claimed she was raped has had her conviction for consensual sex overturned on appeal.
She was found guilty in August by the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance, and sentenced to six months in jail followed by deportation.
However the Appeal Court found yesterday that she was too young to have been tried as an adult, and threw out the guilty verdict.
The girl initially claimed she had been raped by M H, a 28-year-old Pakistani who worked as a bus driver in her school, in her home in the capital on April 4.
The driver denied the charge and prosecutors argued that it would have been difficult for him to enter the girl’s home without her consent, which meant any sex was consensual.
They also said a maid, who was home at the time, did not mention hearing any cries that could have indicated rape.
At a hearing in July, the girl retracted all her claims, denying she ever had sex with the man, and his charge was reduced to consensual sex.
He was found guilty and sentenced to a year in prison and deportation – a verdict that was upheld yesterday.
Originally, prosecutors charged the girl with zina, a Sharia charge of extra-marital sex.
However, because there was not enough evidence for a zina conviction – it requires a confession or four reliable witnesses who saw the act clearly – that was changed in the lower court to consensual sex under UAE law.
In many cases, judges have the freedom to choose when to follow UAE law, and when Sharia should take precedence. In cases of sex out of wedlock, though, Sharia must be implemented.
However, the appeal court found that the lower court had failed to account of the two systems’ different definitions of adulthood.
Under Sharia, puberty is regarded as the threshold of adulthood. Boys with facial hair and girls who menstruate can be tried as adults.
UAE law, however, has a simple age requirement: defendants must be 18 to be tried as an adult.
The girl’s appeal case was that because she was not a Muslim and was charged with a UAE law offence, she was too young to be tried as an adult.
Her lawyers said yesterday the court had accepted both arguments.
The appeal court ruled that the girl should be “handed to her mother”, a legal term implying parents should admonish their children and pay extra attention in the future.
The girl was always free on bail and attended the hearings with her Brazilian mother and German stepfather.