Following the arrest of the Islamic religious leader who was charged for solemnizing the marriage between a 26-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl in Australia, police arrested the girl's father on Feb 12 for his involvement on the case.
Child abuse detectives in NSW charged the 61-year-old Australian from Hunter Valley for being an accessory to the crime of having sex with a child and consenting to underage marriage.
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 26-year-old man is only identified as a native of Lebanon who obtained a student visa and lived in Australia.
Police had reported that 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 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 are investigating the involvement of the girl's family in the illegal marriage under the marriage laws of Australia.
The young girl's father, Raymond Terrace, an Australian, later on reportedly converted to Islam. The court refused to grant him bail and is now in the custody of police.
Child marriages prevalent in NSW
According to Magistrate Caled Franklin, the girl's father believed he was not guilty of any wrongdoing. Reports said that even if the charges against him were proven, he saw nothing wrong with his underage daughter getting married in a religious ceremony.
The father denied the allegations made by the police against him and told the Legal Aid solicitor that his 12-year-old daughter was a "mature" and "strong-willed woman." Mr Terrace also said his daughter and her husband are "in love."
Child marriages may be legal in other parts of the world like Yemen, Australian law states that only individuals 18 years of age will be allowed to enter into marriage.
The NSW case has sparked a debate on how much the child marriage has become a problem. The Sydney Daily Telegraph published the results of an investigation and reported that NSW alone has hundreds of underage teens living in "unregistered" marriages.