Court refuses bid by Saudi diplomat who molested hotel intern to suspend jail term

Bander Yahya A. Alzahrani, was sentenced to 26 months and a week's jail and four strokes of the cane in February for molesting the 20-year-old employee at a Sentosa hotel.
Bander Yahya A. Alzahrani, was sentenced to 26 months and a week's jail and four strokes of the cane in February for molesting the 20-year-old employee at a Sentosa hotel. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The High Court on Friday (Nov 3) rejected a bid by a Saudi Arabian diplomat, who is in jail for groping a hotel intern, to be released for the time being, pending a hearing next January before the Court of Appeal.

Bander Yahya A. Alzahrani, 40, was sentenced to 26 months and a week's jail and four strokes of the cane in February for molesting the 20-year-old employee at a Sentosa hotel while he was here on holiday with his family.

His appeal against conviction and sentence was dismissed by the High Court on July 21 and he started serving his jail term on Aug 11, after the court rejected his third attempt to defer his sentence.

Prison doctors have since found him "temporarily unfit for caning" due to a medical condition, it emerged in court on Friday.

Alzahrani was first allowed to defer his sentence on the day he lost his appeal, to let him settle his personal affairs.

 

On July 27, one day before he was supposed to start his sentence, he asked for - and was granted - a second deferment after he said he wanted to see his children and settle other matters.

 

On Aug 10, he sought a third deferment. It was on the basis that he would be seeking leave, or permission, to refer questions of law of public interest to the Court of Appeal, in a procedure known as a criminal reference.

The High Court refused the third request and ordered him to start serving his sentence.

Eight days later, he filed an application for leave to refer three questions to the apex court. The first question related to the issue of a lawyer who put his client's case incorrectly to a witness, while the the second and third dealt with the state of mind of an alleged victim.

On Sept 29, he filed a criminal motion to stay his sentence pending the leave application hearing, which is scheduled to be heard in January.

He contended that if he ultimately succeeds in the criminal reference and is acquitted, he would have unnecessarily served a substantial part of the jail term.

On Friday, the High Court rejected the motion to stay Alzahrani's sentence.

Judge of Appeal Steven Chong told Alzahrani's lawyer, Mr Peter Pang, that the three questions he has stated were questions of fact, and not questions of law, let alone questions of law of public interest.

The apex court judges may have a different view, said Justice Chong, but "on a cursory examination, as far as I'm concerned, they don't pass muster."