x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Three cleared again of school bus sex attack

There is no evidence that attack on four-year-old took place, appeals court rules.

DUBAI // Three men accused of sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl on her school bus last year were acquitted for a second time yesterday.

The Court of Appeal found there was no physical evidence that an assault ever took place, that one of the men was not on the bus at the time of the alleged attack, and that GPS records contradicted the account given by prosecutors of the route the bus took.

"I have stopped following the case since the lower court acquitted them," the girl's father said after yesterday's verdict.

"We were losing our peace of mind and didn't see any hope."

The father said his wife and children had returned to India after the the three accused men were first acquitted by the Criminal Court of First Instance in April.

He said he had not been told about the appeal hearings.

"Any father would be disappointed by the verdict," he said. "It is now up to society to judge us and see if anybody would put their daughter's credibility at stake."

The three Indian men, JT, 43; MP, 44; and FS, 38, a school bus driver and two attendants, were accused of sexually assaulting the girl in an empty car park on November 11, 2010, after dropping off all the other pupils on the bus.

Police said at the time the men were arrested that they had confessed. Since then they have denied the charges against them at every court appearance, and have been on bail since they were first acquitted in April.

The men's lawyer, Samir Ja'afar, told the Court of Appeal that when he read the file for the first time he was disgusted - but that after reading it again thoroughly, his clients' innocence stood out.

The Criminal Court of First Instance also drew attention to the absence of evidence supporting the prosecution's case.

After that verdict a spokesman for the school that employed the bus workers said: "The GPS records show there was no opportunity for a crime to have been committed during the time and in the location that was alleged.

"These men are family men, fathers with young children, loving husbands. We would caution against people conducting trial by media and remember that all accused are innocent unless proven guilty."

Prosecutors have 15 days to file an appeal to the Court of Cassation, where the verdict is final.

salamir@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting from Preeti Kannan

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