An acting coach convicted of sexually assaulting a young child is challenging the verdict after a prosecution witness retracted his initial evidence.
The Australian man, 56, was accused of indecently touching the Emirati girl, 10, at a studio in Dubai where she was taking acting lessons.
He denied the charge, telling police it was a malicious claim by the mother of the child after he had rejected her advances.
Colleagues of the accused questioned at the time said the incident did not occur and that the child had not attended the studio on the day of the alleged incident on December 2, 2020.
However, one co-worker told investigators he saw the girl sitting on the man's lap.
This account formed part of evidence which helped lead to his conviction by Dubai Criminal Court.
In March, he was sentenced to six months in prison to be followed by deportation.
His defence lawyer, Awatif Mohammed, from Al Rowaad Advocates, took the case to the Appeal Court on Monday, where she questioned the French witness who had come forward to change his account.
“I said that I saw the child in the instructor’s lap, which didn’t happen, but I was coerced by the child’s family to say so,” the French man said in court.
“They told me they knew people in power and will get me deported.
“But when I heard of the sentencing against him [the defendant] I felt like I had destroyed the family’s life and therefore came to tell the truth."
Ms Mohammed told judges that the case was malicious and lacked substantial evidence.
Claims of inconsistent evidence
She said prosecutors accused her client of taking the girl to a soundproof room, locking the door, then touching her inappropriately.
“All witnesses at the time testified the girl didn’t come to the studio that day and said my client was a decent man,” she said in court.
The girl had stopped attending classes in the studio in November 2020, one month before the alleged incident, she said.
“They (the man's colleagues) all said he is being framed by the girl’s mother because he turned down her attempts to be romantically involved with him, which we are proving by providing copies of provocative pictures of hers that she sent to my client.”
She added that the alleged incident was not reported to police until March 15, 2021, more than three months after it was said to have taken place.
Ms Mohammed also told judges that discrepancies in the child parents’ evidence are in favour of her client.
“The child told prosecutors she informed her mother of the alleged incident, but in records, it shows she told her father,” Ms Mohammed said.
A forensic psychoanalysis report stated that the terminology and narrations of the events in a chronological order by the child did not reflect her young age.
It also said the child’s mother was impulsive and emotional and more focused on the accused not the child.
It concluded that no indications have been found to prove the child was subjected to sexual abuse.
A verdict is expected later this month.