A Bangladeshi businessman accused of sexually molesting two under-aged Basotho girls is expected to reappear before the Maseru Magistrate’s Court on February 15 to stand trial.
Jan. 26, 2023
3 min read
High Court releases suspected Bangladeshi rapist on bail
The High Court of Lesotho
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The accused entrepreneur who owns businesses in Lesotho and South Africa was recently released on bail by the High Court.
This was despite an earlier decision by the Maseru Magistrate’s Court not to grant the bail on suspicion that Mohammed Shahidul Islam was a flight risk. Between April and May 2022, Islam, 39, is alleged to have repeatedly paid to have sex with the two girls, aged 15.
The incidents were unearthed when one of the girls’ parents reported her missing to the police sometime in December.
It emerged after investigations that ensued that the missing girl was somewhere in South Africa with the other girl where they were allegedly staying with Islam.
The Bangladeshi is alleged to have financed the girls’ trip to SA.
Thereafter, he is said to have travelled to his native country, where he allegedly remained for a long time.
But he was finally arrested and charged with rape upon his return to Lesotho.
In the two incidents that allegedly occurred in Lesotho, evidence in court shows that he raped one of the girls near a top hotel in Maseru between April and May.
He said to have raped the second girl sometime in October somewhere in Ha ’Nelese, Maseru.
It is alleged that Islam met his two victims at an Islamic synagogue in Maseru where they prayed together.
It is further alleged that he endeared himself to the girls by promising to teach them Arabic.
After his subsequent apprehension in December, Islam was hauled before the Maseru Magistrate’s Court but was denied bail on suspicion that he was a flight risk.
Objecting the bail, Public Prosecutor Sekoati Hlophe maintained that owing to the gravity of the charges he faces, the accused was likely to abscond in order to avoid the hefty sentence the crimes carry.
But Islam’s lawyer, Advocate Christopher Lephuthing argued that although his client was in Bangladesh when he learnt about the charges levelled against him, he handed himself to the Bangladeshi police.
This, he submitted, indicated Islam’s willingness to cooperate with the law and finally stand trial.
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“The accused has been fully advised on the issue of possible sentence and learned about this while still in Bangladesh. If he were a flight risk, I suppose he would have stayed over there,” Lephuthing said, adding that his client was also on Tuberculosis (TB) treatment.
For her part, the presiding officer, Magistrate Puseletso McPherson showed that according to the law, where an accused is charged with the rape of a minor, such a person should not be admitted to bail unless there are exceptional circumstances.
If the sex was repeated, she said, the law stipulates that such an accused person should not be released on bail.