x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Parents of abused girl denied bail

The father and stepmother must wait for the result of their appeal in prison.

ABU DHABI // A father and stepmother who severely abused their nine-year-old daughter must stay in prison while they await a verdict on their appeal, a court ruled yesterday. The child was brought to Al Mafraq Hospital bleeding from cuts and suffering from burns and bruises in April last year by her father. 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. Although there are no specific child abuse laws in the country, the father, an Emirati, and the stepmother, an Egyptian, who live in Bani Yas, were charged with abuse and causing "risk of death". They were sentenced by the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance to 10 years in prison each and a Dh160,000 fine. The verdict was appealed by prosecutors, who sought a 15-year sentence. But the Appellate Court reduced the sentence to seven years. Prosecutors and the parents appealed again and the case was referred to the Court of Cassation.

Earlier this month, the couple asked the Court of Cassation to be released from prison until a final verdict was reached. Such requests are normally lodged to avoid serving a jail term longer than the sentence. Yesterday, the court rejected the request. Officials at the Court of Cassation have not yet set a date for the verdict. Court of Cassation verdicts are not final and another appeal can be requested.

At the trial in the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance, the stepmother admitted to burning the child's thigh with a hot knife; the father said he beat her frequently with a stick. Both confessed to beating the child "to protect her from touching herself" and for "discipline", the father told Abu Dhabi's Criminal Court last year. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, visited her in hospital, saying afterwards that the "sanctity of childhood" was "an essential element of our culture".