Child bride's marriage permitted by father, say police

The father of 12-year-old girl gave his blessing for her to be ''married'' to a Lebanese university student in the Hunter region earlier this year, police will allege.

Detectives investigating the case said the father was ''shocked'' that his daughter's 26-year-old husband was arrested and charged with more than two dozen child sex offences last week.

Child abuse squad detectives spent much of Thursday and Friday interviewing the victim's father and allege he does not believe there was anything wrong with the pair's union.

''He is shocked,'' a detective said.

Charges have not been laid against the father at this stage.

Police will allege the girl was married to the accused during an Islamic ceremony in her father's backyard. But detectives say their union was not official.

The child bride then moved to south-west Sydney with her ''husband'', after they were given permission by the girl's father.

Muslim leaders have expressed their concern at the so-called marriage and the Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, said it should be ''rejected and condemned from a legal and ethical perspective''.

Dr Ibrahim said the matter should be dealt with by the proper authorities as with any other crime.

Muslim Women's Association executive officer Maha Abdo said ''there is no religious leader, imam or scholar in Australia that we work with that would conduct an Islamic wedding ceremony that involved an under-age child.''

Ms Abdo said they were concerned by further reports that this was a prevalent, secretive practice among Muslim communities.

''There is nothing to hide here. This sort of behaviour is against Australian law and the Muslim community does not encourage or condone such a union,'' she said.

''We, as Australian Muslim women, like the rest of Australia are deeply concerned for the welfare of the young girl.''

Keysar Trad, the founder of the Islamic Friendship Society, said: ''We are shocked that such things could occur in Australia. No licensed celebrant is allowed to conduct a marriage of this nature as it goes against all Islamic teachings.''

Samir Dandan, the president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, said such incidents occurred within other faiths, not just Islam. ''Communities across all faiths should collaborate alongside the government to ensure such incidents do not occur in Australia.''

Police arrested the 26-year-old on Thursday and charged him with 25 counts of having sexual intercourse with a child between January 1 and February 4 this year.

The accused had been living in Australia on a student visa and attending university. It is understood he had no ties with the town he was living in but met the under-age victim through a local mosque.

He was formally refused bail at Burwood Local Court on Friday and will remain behind bars until he makes an application for bail on Wednesday.

Police say they do not believe the girl's mother had any knowledge of the ''marriage'' or that her daughter had moved to Sydney with a 26-year-old man.

It is understood the girl's father and mother are separated.

Police learned of the man and under-age girl's marriage after the accused tried to enrol the girl, who recently turned 13, at school and applied for legal guardianship through Centrelink.

The victim has been taken into the care of the Department of Family and Community Services until a permanent home is found for her.

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