Religious Leader Arrested After Allowing Marriage of 12-Year-Old Girl in Australia

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By Reissa Su | February 11, 2014 6:36 PM EST

A religious leader or "Imam" was arrested in Parramatta for overseeing the illegal marriage between a 26-year-old man to a 12-year-old girl in a Muslim ceremony in Newcastle, Australia.

According to reports, Child Abuse Squad detectives arrested the 35-year-old Pakistan native outside the Parramatta police station. It was reported that the imam went into hiding after the arrest of the 26-year-old groom.

The religious leader was granted bail and is due to appear in court on April 2. He was accused of "blessing" the marriage between a man and a young child girl in her home in Hunter Valley in January.

The detectives said they came across the religious leader outside the police station and proceeded to arrest him. They also told Fairfax Media that the imam has ties with an Islamic centre in the Hunter Valley region since 2009.

It was understood that the imam was no longer part of the mosque, according to police. One of the detectives investigating the case said there was no evidence suggesting that the imam has solemnized illegal marriages before.

The groom, whose identity is withheld for the protection of the underage girl, is currently facing charges of 25 counts of sex with a child, while his 12-year-old "childbride" is in foster care. Authorities continue to investigate the involvement of the girl's family in the illegal marriage under Australian law.

The 26-year-old man from New South Wales in Sydney was arrested and locked behind bars after reportedly having sexual relations and "marrying" the 12-year-old child bride in a religious ceremony. The man is only identified as Lebanese in origin and is living in Australia with a student visa.

Authorities had claimed the two lived together in a house on Sydney's southwest and continued their relationship as a couple. They were allegedly married in a religious ceremony held in NSW earlier in 2014. The girl has just turned 13 years old this year.

Authorities were alerted of the young girl's situation when the Lebanese man tried to apply for legal guardianship of the girl at Centrelink. 

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