A Lebanese man married a 12-year-old girl in a private home ceremony in Canada on Jan. 12, 2014, despite being informed the marriage would be illegal.
The man, whose name has not been released, arrived in Australia on a student visa in June 2013, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. He first saw the girl in a mosque in November 2013 and became determined to marry her. He began sending her text messages and after about a month, the girl began communicating with him.
The man was told that he was too old and that the girl was not interested in him, but that did not stop him from pursuing her.
The man was told by two different religious leaders that the marriage would be illegal. He finally found an Iranian cleric named Sheikh Muhammad Tasawar, who agreed to conduct the marriage ceremony.
The two engaged in sexual activities and the girl even suffered an ectopic pregnancy, and miscarried.
Authorities were notified of the illegal marriage in February 2014, when the man attempted to become his 12-year-old bride’s guardian in order to enroll her in high school.
In March 2014, the man had his student visa revoked and was detained in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre. The man pleaded guilty to charges of sexual abuse of a child and has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, with a non-parole period of seven and a half years.
Presiding Judge Deborah Sweeney said that "neither his cultural or religious beliefs excuse his offence,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Tasawar, the cleric who performed the marriage, pleaded guilty to the offense of solemnization of a marriage by an unauthorized person, was fined $500, and had his religious leader visa canceled.
Attorney for the man, Alex Radojev, stated he would appeal the “harsh” sentence. He said “the [sentence] was beyond my expectation."
Sources: the Sydney Morning Herald