x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Court orders retrial in case of 'severely abused' girl

A father and stepmother of a nine-year-old daughter had been found guilty of beating her up badly but they were tried without a lawyer.

The Court of Cassation has ordered the retrial of a father and a stepmother who severely abused their nine-year-old daughter because they were tried without a lawyer. The Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance found the two guilty of beating their daughter and convicted them of abuse and causing risk of death; the case drew wide attention and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, visited the girl in the hospital and spoke against child abuse.

The parents were sentenced to 10 years in prison in April last year. They appealed and, two months later, the Appellate Court reduced the sentence to seven years. Both the prosecutors, who asked for the maximum sentence, and the parents appealed the verdict again. The Court of Cassation sent the case back to the appeal court because of procedural errors. According to Ali al Abbadi, the parents' lawyer, the court rejected the verdict because the lower courts never appointed a new lawyer for the parents - a requirement because they could be sentenced to life imprisonment.

The court also found that the family's maid - who did not speak good Arabic - testified to police and prosecutors without a translator, he said. The child was brought to Al Mafraq Hospital bleeding from cuts and suffering from burns and bruises in April 2009. The father told police and doctors that the girl had fallen off her bicycle, but a medical examination confirmed she had been "severely abused".

Police found evidence the child had been beaten by her father and stepmother, who were subsequently arrested. After the Appellate Court, the case could be referred to the Court of Cassation for a final verdict.