Australian man convicted for marrying off 12-year-old daughter in Islamic ceremony

SYDNEY (AFP) - An Australian man was convicted on Wednesday of procuring his 12-year-old daughter for sex by letting her marry a man more than twice her age in an Islamic ceremony.

The father, who cannot be named to protect the girl's identity, was found guilty of procuring a child under the age of 14 for unlawful sexual activity and encouraging the pair to have intercourse despite denying the charges.

Sydney's Downing Centre District Court heard that he wanted to save the girl from what he considered the sin of having sex outside marriage so when she reached puberty, he decided she should wed.

When a 26-year-old Lebanese man, in Australia on a student visa, showed interest in her, the father consented to a marriage, which was carried out by a local sheikh last year at his home around 250 km north of Sydney.

On the night of the wedding - which was not recognised under Australian law - the married pair went to a hotel with the father's permission, Judge Deborah Sweeney said as she handed down her judgment.

They had sex there and twice more at the father's home the following weekend.

"He made up a room and bed... for them knowing they would have sexual intercourse," Sweeney said, adding that the girl got pregnant but miscarried.

During the trial, the court heard that the girl was told on the night of her wedding not to use contraceptive pills or condoms as it was against the religious teachings they followed.

The father was released on bail and will be sentenced next month.

His daughter is in the care of the authorities while the Lebanese man was jailed for seven and a half years last month for sexual abuse of a child.

The sheikh who carried out the marriage ceremony has not been charged.

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