x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Death sentence cleaner is innocent, Abu Dhabi school staff believe

Teachers from a school where a cleaner is accused of raping a pupil tell court that none of the staff believe he is guilty.

ABU DHABI // A school cleaner sentenced to death for raping a pupil is innocent, teaching staff say.

Four teachers testified on Monday at the Appeals Court, saying none of the school’s staff believed the incident had occurred.

The Indian cleaner I K, 56, is appealing against his conviction for the rape of an Emirati girl, 7, in the kitchen of an Abu Dhabi private school.

An Arabic teacher at the school, B M, said she saw the girl on April 14, the day the rape was alleged to have occurred, but did not notice anything unusual in her behaviour.

“I teach her every day,” she said.

She said she and her fellow staff heard about the case on the news and none of them could believe the rape occurred because there was nowhere to hide in the kitchen.

“The kitchen is completely exposed and is made of glass walls,” the teacher said. “There is the secretary’s office there and it is never empty. There are always employees and parents around.”

The judge asked if the teacher could think of why the cleaner would be wrongly accused, and she said no.

At this point the lawyer representing the schoolgirl challenged the teacher, saying she was contradicting a statement made by the school principal to prosecutors.

“The principal said, ‘I do not deny this incident occurred’, and yet you say none of the teachers could believe it,” said the lawyer.

The teacher said that like all staff, the principal had not seen anything and therefore could not accept or deny the crime had happened.

Another three teachers – S K, M K and the girl’s class supervisor, L – told the court they could not believe the allegations.

“I’ve known the cleaner for nine years, and I work with him and I meet him every morning,” said S K.

“If I had ever noticed anything suspicious I would have taken my daughter out of the school. She’s been there for six years, since KG1, and sees the cleaner on a daily basis.”

She said the cleaner had never been in trouble before and the girl had been “perfectly normal” in her class after the alleged incident.

She said the inside of the kitchen was visible to passers-by and the room had a big glass door that was open at all times.

The lawyer for the girl then asked if the room’s walls were made of glass as the first teacher had claimed, or whether only the door was made of glass.

The teacher replied that only the front wall of the kitchen was glass, but that the room was extremely small and that everything inside was visible.

The cleaner’s lawyer asked for a verdict to be announced at the next hearing, but the girl’s lawyer asked for an adjournment so he could respond to the teachers’ statements.

The case was adjourned until December 9. The judge ordered the girl to attend the next hearing.

hdajani@thenational.ae