Children's testimonies proved damning for parents

Children's testimonies proved damning for parents
Shalwati Norshal (left) and Azizul Raheem Awalluddin were sentenced to 14 months and 10 months jail, respectively, for repeated use of violence at home.

PETALING JAYA - It was the children's testimony that proved overwhelmingly to the Swedish court of their parents' guilt in beating them.

"Overall, the district court finds that all four children are very credible and that their testimony can essentially be the basis for court's evaluation," ruled Slona District Court Judge Mattias Moller.

"It is beyond reasonable doubt that both Shalwati (Norshal) and Azizul (Raheem Awalluddin) had exposed the children to violence."

Judge Moller conceded that the pro­­­secution's case was built largely on the children's testimony and accepted the defence's criticism of the lack of opportunity to cross-examine the children because their testimony was tendered in the form of pre-recorded video interviews by the police.

The 61-page judgment was up­­loaded onto the Solna District Court's website on Friday but it was only available in Swedish.

Judge Moller had earlier in the day sentenced Shalwati, 46, and Azizul, 38, to 14 months and 10 months jail, respectively, for violating their children's integrity by systemic and repeated use of violence at home.

Azizul, Tourism Malaysia director in Sweden, and Shalwati, a teacher on no-pay leave, had been arrested on Dec 18 and charged on Feb 10 with multiple counts of hitting their four children - Aishah, 15, Ammar, 12, Adam, 10, and Ariff, 7 - at their home in Spanga, Stockholm, between Sept 15, 2010 and Dec 17, 2013.

In his written judgment, Judge Moller addressed several issues that had arisen by the inclusion of the video interviews - leading questions asked by the police interrogator, the need for a translator in the interviews, and the difficulty posed by the younger children in answering questions depending on their level of maturity.

"However, these deficiencies are not such that it brings the children's credibility into question," he held.

In particular, Judge Moller said he found Ammar's testimony to be sincere and the fact he was both anxious and concerned that his parents had been detained proved he did not mean his parents harm.

Judge Moller also ruled that Am­­mar's letter, in which he apologised for causing police to investigate his parents, in no way constituted a de­­nial that his parents beat him.

He also dismissed the defence's theory that Ammar was an attention seeker who had become hateful of his parents and wanted revenge.

"Ammar's motives tell you that he had enough of the violence and he understood that adults - at least in Sweden - do not have the right to beat their children and that he wants the parents to stop hitting him," said Judge Moller.

He found Ammar and Aishah's testimonies to be more substantial than their younger brothers, adding that their statements were corroborated independently by a younger sibling's testimony.

During the 11-day-long trial, Prosecutor Anna Arnells had also called 11 witnesses, who included teachers, police, and social workers that testified in person in court, and tendered four video interviews of Ammar's school friends.

Based on the evidence, the court ruled there had been a definite violation of the children's integrity, that Shalwati had beaten all of four children and that while Azizul had beaten the three older children, he had not laid a finger on the youngest.

Judge Moller took into consideration that neither Shalwati nor Azizul have had criminal records and that the Probation Services had determined there was no risk of them re-offending.

"However, due to the nature and seriousness of the crime committed, there is no option other than imprisonment," ruled Judge Moller.

He held that the children were entitled to compensation in the form of damages and so ordered Shalwati and Azizul to pay their children 67,200 SEK (S$13,000) and 36,400 SEK, res­­­­pec­­tively.

However, he dismissed the prosecution's application that the couple be deported after serving their sentences.

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