A former Muslim imam convicted of marrying an underage girl to a 34-year-old man says a video of the ceremony should not have been used as evidence to find him guilty.
Ibrahim Omerdic, 62, appeared before the Victorian Supreme Court on Monday to appeal against a conviction for last year unlawfully solemnising a marriage between the 14-year-old girl and a Rohingya refugee at the Noble Park mosque, in south-east Melbourne.
His defence barrister Daniel Gurvich, QC, told the court a video recording part of the ceremony did not show Omerdic solemnising the marriage and was circumstantial.
‘There were deficiencies in the prosecution case and those were fatal deficiencies when it comes to proving the case beyond reasonable doubt,’ he said.
‘The recording stops at a certain point. The evidence stops at a certain point.
‘In this case there was a clear absence of evidence and inability to draw an inference to the exclusion of others there was a complete ceremony.’
Omerdic, 62, was found guilty of solemnising in September 2016 the marriage of the teenage girl and a man, 34.
Magistrate Phillip Goldberg in June sentenced Omerdic to two months’ prison for his ‘serious breach of trust’ but released him immediately on a two-year recognisance release order.
Mohammad Shakir, a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar, in April pleaded guilty to going through a ceremony of marriage with a person not of marriageable age.
Omerdic was an imam of the Bosnian Islamic Society and Noble Park Mosque, but he was sacked after his November arrest over the wedding.
‘If (he) is happy with something, do it. If (he) is not happy with something, don’t do it,’ he tells the girl in the shaky mobile footage.
Omerdic can also be heard telling the child’s mother and her betrothed: ‘She’s very young.’
He had fought the charge, claiming the marriage was not subsequently formalised under Australian law.
However, Mr Gurvich said the prosecution’s decision not to call other witnesses who were present at the ceremony had resulted in ‘dangerous conclusions’.
‘There may have been evidence favourable to the appellant that he was deprived of having the opportunity of being given,’ he said.
Omerdic also did not provide the couple with an Islamic marriage certificate, he said.
Counsel for the Commonwealth, Wendy Abraham QC, said the imam deliberately withheld the certificate.
‘He did not give a marriage certificate for his own security,’ she said.
‘He did not want to get caught out.’
The hearing before Justice Andrew Keogh continues.