A Saudi Arabian diplomat was on Friday (Feb 3) sentenced to 26 months and a week’s jail, and four strokes of the cane for forcefully kissing and groping a hotel trainee while he was on holiday in Singapore.
Bander Yahya A Alzahrani, who is married with three children and based in Beijing, was found guilty of two counts of outrage of modesty and one count of using criminal force on the 20-year-old victim, who cannot be named to protect her identity.
Chiding the 39-year-old for preying on a “young and naive victim”, District Judge Lee Poh Choo rejected the defence’s argument that he “acted in a moment of extremely poor judgment and folly”.
“I am not persuaded at all by the plea that (Alzahrani) was a respected individual of good character and he acted in moment of indiscretion and poor judgment. He knew and intended his actions,” she said.
Alzahrani’s lawyers have filed a notice to appeal against his conviction and sentence. He is out on S$20,000 bail.
During the eight-day trial, the court heard that Alzahrani molested the victim twice within 15 minutes, such as by kissing her neck and face, and touching her all over her body. This was while she was showing him around a panoramic suite in Sentosa resort island. Prosecutors said that he also asked her for sex.
Pressing for a sentence of 27.5 months’ jail and four strokes of the cane, the prosecution emphasised that Alzahrani had not pleaded guilty at the earliest instance. “In claiming trial, (he) had forced the victim to recount and relive the trauma (of the incident),” Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenny Yang said.
Agreeing, District Judge Lee noted that the victim broke down during her testimony, saying it was “painful to remember everything in so (much) detail”.
“(She) was put through the trauma of recalling and talking about the incident which had been haunting her and she wanted to forget,” the judge added.
Pleading for a lighter sentence of 25 months’ jail, defence lawyer Shashi Nathan told the court that the episode had been “deeply, deeply embarrassing” for Alzahrani’s family members.
Mr Nathan also urged the court to take into consideration that Alzahrani is the sole breadwinner in his family.
In sentencing him, District Judge Lee commended the resort employees for their alertness and for the “many hours (that) were expended” in getting information from the victim.
However, she said: “The wisdom of sending a young female intern, alone, to show a room to a male guest is a separate matter.”
The Saudi Arabia embassy in Singapore and China did not respond to TODAY’s request for comments.
Alzahrani could have been jailed up to 10 years, with caning for each charge of outraging the victim’s modesty.
For using criminal force on her, he could have been jailed up to three months and/or fined up to S$1,500.