SINGAPORE: A judge on Wednesday (Apr 17) acquitted two men of charges over an attack on a 16-year-old girl, saying that the victim's account of the incident was "unreliable".
The victim, whose identity is protected by gag order, was assaulted for about 12 hours in a flat two years ago, in an attack that left her with a spine fracture and other injuries that led to kidney failure.
A third man, Aminnuddin Siregar Aminullah Siregar, 32, was sentenced to 10 years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane in August last year for the attack.
On Wednesday, District Judge John Ng found Amin's two co-accused - 28-year-old Muhammad Khalis Khairi and 29-year-old Rushdi Rosli - not guilty, clearing them of charges ranging from causing grievous hurt with a deadly weapon to wrongful restraint of the victim.
"There is no doubt that the victim was seriously hurt physically by Amin," said the judge. "But her recollection of the involvement of Khalis and Rushdi in inflicting further injuries is highly suspect."
Explaining his decision, the judge said all four involved were connected with illicit drug activities and that the victim herself was a drug courier.
"The victim also had sexual relations separately with Khalis and Amin," he said.
"The victim might only be 16 years old at the time of the incident, but she is not a young person who is innocent in her ways. She is a drug courier and Amin is a drug trafficker. That forms the background with which this incident is to be analysed."
At the core of the trial for Khalis and Rushdi was the issue of whether they had joined Amin in inflicting further injuries to the victim.
VICTIM "OUT OF HER SENSES", AMIN HIGH ON DRUGS
The defence had said during the trial that Amin had told Khalis and Rushdi to pick the victim up from his flat on the day of the incident.
When they arrived, however, Amin pulled them into his flat and locked the gate, the defence said. There, Khalis and Rushdi witnessed "a horrific sight", with the victim "battered beyond recognition", "out of her senses" and repeatedly taking off all her clothes, the defence said.
The defence argued that Amin, who was high on drugs, was paranoid and aggressive and refused to let Khalis and Rushdi leave the flat.
Although the victim had testified that she was sure she saw two people other than Amin assaulting her, the judge found her evidence unconvincing.
The judge said the uncertainties arising from the victim's testimony came from the risk of drug-induced hallucinations, as she had a "cocktail of drugs" including methamphetamine and codeine in her blood.
There was also eyewitness testimony that she had behaved bizarrely by removing all her clothes, and "much unreliability" and inconsistencies in the victim's various statements.
While Amin had made statements implicating both Khalis and Rushdi, the judge said it was clear that he had done so to shift the blame to them.
"The scattered and incongruent details of what transpired on the night of the 20th to the early morning hours of 21st of April 2017, at the HDB flat unit of Amin, provided by the victim separately in the hospital, in her various statements to the police and in court, together with the testimonies of the other witnesses for the prosecution, meant that it is totally unsafe to convict Khalis and Rusdhi," said the judge.
JUDGE COMMENDS DEFENCE LAWYERS
He commended Criminal Legal Aid Scheme defence lawyers Sadhana Rai and Soo Bei Han for defending Rushdi, adding that Khalis, who was unrepresented, also benefited from their efforts.
"This is one good example of how legal aid for an accused person, who might otherwise not have the benefit of counsel, enabled the court to arrive at a verdict which came out of a careful and proper cross-examination of the witnesses by the well-prepared counsel," said the judge.
He added that the prosecutor was also even-handed and fair, letting Rusdhi plead guilty to a stood-down charge of meth consumption in November last year, for which he received eight months' jail.
Because Rushdi's sentence was backdated to the date of his remand, he was released immediately after the hearing on Wednesday.
Appearing relieved and shaken by the verdict, Rushdi told reporters outside the court that he intended to spend the day with his family before getting a job.
"I'm at peace right now," he said.
Khalis is set to plead guilty to other unrelated charges on Thursday.