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Sun 5 Jun 2005 04:00 AM

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Qatari prince guilty of child sex

A QATARI prince was last week sentenced to two and a half years in prison after he was convicted in the Czech Republic of sexually abusing young girls.

QATARI prince was last week sentenced to two and a half years in prison after he was convicted in the Czech Republic of sexually abusing young girls.

Hamid Bin Abdul Sani Al Thani was found guilty of paying to have sex with four girls aged under 15 between 2001 and 2004. He was arrested after one of the girls told her mother about the offer of sex.

He allegedly paid three Czech women to offer girls on the street US$85 to visit his apartment for sex. Czech prosecutors accused him of arranging for young girls to be brought to his home for sex. The women, described by the presiding judge as “both guilty and victims”, were allegedly paid US$40 for each girl they provided.

Al Thani has lived privately in the Czech Republic for 10 years and has no diplomatic immunity from prosecution. He was tried in Prague after a Czech judge turned down a request from Qatar to have him sent back home to face trial.

However, Czech officials have admitted that the refusal to allow Al Thani to return to Qatar could strain relations between the two nations, which do not have an official extradition treaty.

The Qatari prince was arrested last year and has spent 10 months in custody awaiting trial. In April, Czech justice minister Pavel Nemec said the Czech Republic would extradite the member of the ruling family of Qatar.

Nemec claimed his government had received assurances from Qatar that Al Thani would be prosecuted in his homeland. But prosecutors objected and he was forced to stand trial in Prague.

“I can easily bet with justice minister Pavel Nemec that if [Al-Thani] is released abroad before the verdict is delivered, it will be very likely that he will not be put on trial,” said Jiri Pospisil, the Czech Republic’s shadow justice minister.

Under Qatari law, a woman’s testimony is only half the value of a man’s, and only a Muslim aged over 18 can be a witness in court. Furthermore, Qatari courts cannot make a decision without the witness’s direct presence in court. The evidence in the case in question is based on the testimonies of the alleged victims — who are all under 18.

The Czech Republic has no extradition treaty with Qatar, but Doha sent a diplomatic note requesting extradition. The case had “complicated bilateral relations”, according to Petr Dimun, a Czech judiciary spokesman. Doha though, claims it would have prosecuted given the opportunity.

“We were given assurances that this [sexual abuse] is a criminal offence in Qatar, too, and that the man would be prosecuted,” said Dimun.

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