KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 – A former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department failed to attend a court hearing in Kangar today to face charges over allegations that he had molested an underaged girl.
Arau MP Shahidan Kassim is now a fugitive over his absence with the Kangar Sessions Court issuing a warrant of arrest against him, Bernama reported.
The arrest warrant was issued by Sessions Court judge Johari Abu Hassan after Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohd Nordin Ismail applied for it.
Shahidan’s lawyer, Syed Muhamad Anwar Syed Lokman Hakim defended his client’s non-appearance in court, saying that neither his client nor he had been informed about this earlier.
“I only got know about this case in court. My client is out of the country.
“This is a high profile case involving a politician. Shahidan is domiciled in Perlis and has not run away,” he was quoted as saying by the national news agency.
Shahidan now in Mecca performing umrah
He added that the defence would be filing for a revocation of the arrest warrant.
According to Shahidan’s Facebook page, he is in Mecca performing the umrah (minor haj).
The allegations against Shahidan stems from an incident which took place on October 21.
Stories about Shahidan allegedly molesting a 15-year-old girl then went viral.
According to Bernama, the teenager was said to be part of a buskers group that he sponsors.
A police report was lodged by the girl but her parents had later withdrawn the report.
Shahidan pointed to the withdrawn report in arguing that he was innocent of the allegations.
Bernama reported that the father of the girl had also stated that the matter had been amicably resolved and the family deemed that there was no need to blow it out of proportion.
Questions over girl’s actions after meeting Shahidan
Political observers have criticised the police over their lack of action on such a serious matter, even if the parents or the girl had withdrawn the report.
They called for the authorities to study the situation surrounding the allegations more deeply.
Shahidan was accused of having called for the girl to be sent to his car after an event late at night.
The girl was seen to have then left the car in tears and alleged in her report on the attempt to molest her.
One observer said teenage girls do not simply act the way the girl did from innocent touches to her hands and shoulder, as she is already 15 and would know the difference between what feels sexual and what isn’t.
Speaking at a press conference in Parliament last week, Shahidan’s only defence was that it was a misunderstanding.
He admitted that he was with the girl in his car but claimed that he could only meet with the teenager under such circumstances due to his health, which did not allow him to alight from his vehicle.
Shahidan also claimed that he saw the girl as if she was his own child or grandchild.
Law against child sexual grooming
The case of a volunteer at churches and charity organisations being now accused of being a sexual predator has also further highlighted the case of the MP from Perlis.
There too, the accused claimed that he saw the underaged girls whom he is alleged to have targetted of being like his “little sisters”. In a familiar fashion, he too said that he was “misundertood”.
Cases of alleged child sexual grooming such as these can now be prosecuted since Parliament passed the Sexual Offences Against Children Act last year.